Taekwondo has been in the Olympics since 1988 and is the oldest hand to hand combat sports in the Olympics.
Two time Gold Medalist Jade Jones of Great Britain will be looking for her third Olympic championship, while 2016 medalists Tijana Bogdanović (Silver; Flyweight), Panipak Wongpattanakit (Bronze; Flyweight) and 2012 medalist Paige McPherson (bronze; welterweight) will be looking for their first.
Photo: Team USA’s Naomi Graham courtesy “Stars and Stripes”
We were delayed a year but no shortage of enthusiasm as we head into our third Olympics with the women’s divisions of boxing.
Several veterans from 2016 including middleweight Silver Medalist Nouchka Fontijn (NET), flyweight Bronze Medalist Ingrit Valencia (COL), lightweight Bronze Medalist Mira Potkonen, and a return 2012 flyweight Bronze Medalist Mary Kom.
This year adds two weight divisions with welterweight (64 kg/141 lbs) and featherweight (54 kg/120 lbs).
The past few fight camps for Arlene Blencowe has been a trek. Having to fly from her native Australia to the United States has been daunting but a worth wild effort in her title match with Cris Cyborg this past October.
After the loss to the champion, Blencowe made the decision to split her camp between her home gym and one of the most famous ones in MMA – Jackson/Winkeljohn in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has been at Jackson’s for eight weeks ahead of her fight with Dayana Silva, which will take place at Bellator 262 on Friday live on Showtime. There was a specific motivation for Blencowe to go to Albuquerque.
It was a major move for Shannon Knapp as her creation InvictaFC was sold to Anthem Sports and Entertainment.
Knapp told us in a phone interview she didn’t come into this decision lightly. Her biggest priority was seeing her athletes get a bigger stage. After a lot of research and negotiation, signing with Anthem was the best possible deal for all involved.
Anthem itself partly owns AXS-TV – Invicta’s new broadcast home. AEG, which is known for it’s event venues and live event productions is also a partner in AXS-TV as is billionaire Mark Cuban.
While Invicta is under the Anthem umbrella, the fans will be getting more of what they have come to love.
As the Olympics were delayed a year, so many stories have changed in the women’s divisions of freestyle wrestling.
Saturday night, six women punched their ticket to the Tokyo Games and will wrestle from August 1-7 to hopefully become Gold medalists.
Two familiar faces will be returning to the Olympics: 53 kg Gold Medalist in the 2016 Games Helen Maroulis (who qualified a weight up at 57 kg) and Adeline Gray at 76 kg, who looks for her first medal. Joining them are Sarah Hildebrandt (50kg), Jacarra Winchester (53 kg), Kayla Miracle (62 kg), and Tamyra Mensah-Stock (68 kg).
It was February 2005 when Vanessa Porto first entered mixed martial arts. Sixteen years later she has finally found a major promotion to call home.
The now former InvictaFC champion is currently the most experienced female fighter on the roster, making her MMA debut three months before Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg. Both would actually face each other their rookie years. It was only a matter of time before Bellator heard her call.
The Kansas State Athletic Commission has made available open scoring to all combat sports in 2020 and so far the results have been nothing but great according for all involved.
InvictaFC was the first promotion to request judges give score information to fight teams and the audience on a round by round basis. LFA soon followed suit. The KSAC has given the media results of the initial year of using the system and though there was a small sample size due to limited events in 2020, things are pointing positive.
It was 2007 when an 1-0 Kaitlin Young stepped into her first mma tournament and became the Hook’n’Shoot champion, fighting three women in one night.
Over 13 years later, she hopes to repeat that success in the Professional Fighters League. They announced she will fight fellow InvictaFC vet Cindy Dandois in the regular season opening round May 6th in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which will air live on ESPN.
“I feel I am in the right place in my career for a tournament right now,” Young expressed.
Young is no stranger to tournaments. Besides her Hoon’n’Shoot win, she has competed in two other MMA tournaments in her career. Young told us this one is unique in many ways, especially the round robin opening round matches.
“You got this set of fights and it’s not all just riding on one fight. It takes the pressure off a bit. You can go out have have good performances heading into the playoffs. It’s a cool structure.”
The move to lightweight was strategic for her. While having fought at bantamweight most of her career, she moved to featherweight in her return to MMA in 2018 after a four year hiatus from MMA. It took her a few years to get her body ready for lightweight.
“The PFL had asked me a couple of years ago to be a part of their tournament and at the time I felt 155 was too heavy for me. I had just gone up to 145. I think its important when you go up weight classes you do it slowly.”
Young feels comfortable at the weight and feels it an advantage in terms of her training for the tournament.
“I have always been slightly envious of the guys where there is one ‘eat and train hard division’ at heavyweights and there is not one for the ladies. At 155 I don’t think I will be ridiculously over sized…This is an awesome opportunity to let your body develop the way it wants to and hard training instead of worrying about being lighter.”
“One of the benefits of the weight being higher when you can’t be out (when in a bubble). I like to run outside and I obviously can’t do that.”
The PFL announced they would be putting Covid protocols in place for the opening events, with a bubble similar to other promotions. Young fought for InvictaFC last year, joining Kayla Harrison and Taylor Guardado as the only ones in the PFL women’s tournament to go through the experience.
“The cool thing is while I am handicapped, we are all similarly handicapped,” Young observed. “I think it is harder on extroverted fighters to be honest. I am pretty introverted and I like to isolate before a fight, so I actually kind of love it. I know it is hard for some people being locked away with their thoughts before they fight. For me it is something I really enjoy; being locked up before a fight.”
Currently one of the favorites to win the tournament, Young is excited about testing her skills once again against veteran and rookie talent alike.
“They way I like to say it, fighters bring different puzzles to the table. There is some really fun fights to be had in this tournament. In a tournament type situation the experience in a helpful thing – not just technically but mentally and emotionally.”