Kaitlin Young is a mixed martial artist who has fought some of the biggest names in women’s MMA, including Gina Carano, Miesha Tate, Liz Carmouche and Julie Kedzie.
Young, who is the 2007 HOOKnSHOOT Women’s Grand Prix champion, is set to face Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith in a rematch at Invicta FC 3, Oct. 6, after Young’s original opponent Sarah Kaufman had to pull out of the fight due to injury.
Smith and Young had previously fought at the first Invicta FC event back in July, which resulted in a draw. The fight was praised by fans and critics, and even earned Fight of the Night honors.
Young took some time to answer some questions about what brought her to MMA and her upcoming rematch with Smith.
Kaitlin, thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule for this interview. Let’s start at the beginning. You started training in martial arts at age 14. What first drew you to martial arts?
I’m not quite sure. Martial arts were actually my second choice because my mom wouldn’t let me play football.
I had tried Tae Kwon Do briefly when I was 11 or so, and thought it would be fun to get back into it. I’ve always loved contact sports. As I got older and tried some different things, I found that individual sports were a much better fit for me.
What made you want to decide to make transition to go into MMA? What do you enjoy about it?
My coaches suggested that I try an MMA fight after I had practiced Thai boxing for a couple of years as an amateur. That was what initially got the ball rolling. I decided to stick with it because it is a challenge and not for the faint of heart. The training can be grueling, but I enjoy the lifestyle for the most part.
After winning your first fight, you participated in the 2007 HOOKnSHOOT Grand Prix one-night tournament. What was it like winning one fight and then to the next until you won the third fight and captured the HOOKnSHOOT title?
It was really surreal. I remember just trying to stay focused for the next fight. It didn’t really sink in until after I was home. I don’t think I fully understood all that those victories would do for me until much later.
After the Grand Prix you had a four-fight losing streak that included a loss to Gina Carano. What were some of the things that kept you from hanging up the gloves and leaving MMA?
I knew I was better than that. I wasn’t willing to leave MMA without realizing my full potential. If I had quit, I KNOW that years later I would have wondered what I could have done.
There is a very small window in time when you can perform at your peak in combat sports, and once it closes you can’t go back. I am not willing to carry those kinds of regrets.
What are some of the changes you that you have made in your training over the years?
There have been a lot of changes in the last five years. It has become a much more involved process than it was when I first started. I now have “specialty” coaches in nearly every area. I have changed my strength and conditioning coach. I have changed my approach to cutting weight. You name it, I’ve changed it!
What is it like getting to fight Smith once again and what will be your business going into this fight?
I’m glad we are fighting again. Having a draw was such a let down for me. I will be changing up the game plan somewhat.
You’ve fought in the first two Invicta FC events. What’s it like competing in a MMA promotion that not only features all women fighters on the roster, but also have four different weight classes that are comprised of well-known fighters and up and coming prospects?
It has been great. People have this misconception that there is no depth in the female divisions. While the talent pool may not be as saturated as some of the men’s divisions, there are certainly many skilled fighters in each of the established weight classes.
Who are some of the people you look up to and what is the best advice you have gotten from someone in regards to fighting?
The best advice I got from anyone was when Jeff Osborne told me to never quit my job!
Seriously, I have been burned in the past by depending on income from fights alone. I don’t know if I look up to anyone, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for my teammates.
I read that you were going to college studying Kinesiology while also fighting. What was that like balancing fighting and school?
I don’t think balance is the correct word! If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have tried to go to school while I was trying to fight. It was very difficult, and I think both my fighting career and my education suffered because of it. I was burned out.
Now, having a degree and a good flexible job that I enjoy outside of fighting is great, but that was a really tough time for me.
I also saw that you are a strength and conditioning coach for a volleyball team. What are some of things you stress to the athletes you train?
That is what I used to do. It was a very rewarding job, but the schedule and being around 270 teenagers every week was hell on my training. I got sick every time I cut weight! When I was there, I stressed nutrition to them and correct form of course.
For the past two years I have been at Custom Fitness, a private personal training studio in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. It is a great place to be, and the clients and staff are people that I enjoy seeing every day. The flexible schedule is absolutely ideal as well.
You’ve been competing since 2007, fought in the first MMA event that was broadcasted on network television and are now competing in Invicta. From your perspective, what’s it like watching women’s MMA grow from when you started fighting to now?
It has been an interesting ride! A lot of the promotions used to make us fight 3 minute rounds, which sounds absolutely insane now. (It did then, too.) It will continue to grow, especially with an organization like Invicta pushing it along.
After the fight with Smith, how long do you plan to continue in MMA? Who are some other fighters you would like to tangle with in the cage?
I’ll fight as long as my body holds up, and the desire is still there. That could be two, five, or 10 years from now.
There is nobody I want to fight in particular, but there is nobody that I wouldn’t fight. It would be nice if Kaufman and I get to throw some leather before my time is up.
What else would you like readers to know about you?
I have had a crazy schedule this camp, and a lot of people to thank. First, sponsors make a huge dent in the cost of a training camp.
Thank you to Joe Taverni, Horsepower Strength and Conditioning, Intimidation Clothing, Team Best Friend MMA, and MMA Chick for all of their continued support.
I’d also like to thank all the great people I get to train with: Ryan Murray, Robert Brant, Greg Nelson and all my teammates at The Academy, Tom Schmitz and all the guys at Spartan Martial Arts, and Matt Miller and the Horsepower Clique.
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