No one makes an entrance quite like Shayna Baszler.
With her trademark electric guitar raised above her head as she makes her way to the cage, "The Queen of Spades" has really come to embrace the spectacle as well as the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Baszler possesses some of the most unique grappling skills in all of women's MMA, hearkening back to her work in catch wrestling with mentor Josh Barnett and she's put on some incredible submission displays throughout her career including the first recorded female twister as well as an impressive choke of Sarah D'Alelio in her last bout at Invicta 3.
The long-time veteran will be taking on Alexis Davis this Saturday night (Jan. 5, 2013) in the co-main event of Invicta FC 3: Esparza vs. Hyatt in Kansas City, Kansas and she's got more on the line than just pride. With a victory, she could be putting her name forth as the next potential title contender for Ronda Rousey in the UFC.
Baszler spoke with MMAmania.com during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission about the stakes of her fight, what she expects different in the rematch and the big changes she made in training in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were voted South Dakota's best fighter pretty recently and considering your competition, this is actually a pretty high honor. Can you comment on this?
Shayna Baszler: Well what's funny is, the guy that runs the gym that I train at here in Sioux Falls, every year I lose out to Brock Lesnar. He always gives me a hard time that I'll never beat Brock Lesnar so he's actually the one that texts me saying he read it and I thought he was joking again. I laughed it off and more and more people started telling me. It was actually pretty funny. Now that he's back to pro wrestling, I've got to carry the baby blue flag of South Dakota.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You changed things up with your training recently, ramping up your strength and conditioning among other things. Can you talk about some of those changes?
Shayna Baszler: Yeah, as far as my training, I think one of the biggest changes I made was I started working with Matt Miller at Horsepower Strength and Conditioning. He's out of Minneapolis and works with Pat Barry and it completely changed the way I do my strength and conditioning. My last two fights and this one are the last three fights I worked with him and I feel the best I ever felt, like ever. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, but that's the main thing.
I still do the grappling and boxing, but my major difference has been working with Matt Miller at Horsepower. He even started doing some satellite training with online stuff in case you can't be there in person.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've been adding a lot of focus on explosion too. Can you go into detail on that?
Shayna Baszler: Yeah, it goes back to Matt Miller. You won't be doing curls in preparation for a fight, it'll all be deadlifts and cleans and jerks and snatches, all these explosive Olympic lifts. When it comes to power endurance, those are the types of movements you need in a fight. Not the specific motions of a clean, but getting your whole body to explode when you need to and the way I feel in a fight, everybody gets tired even when they're well conditioned, but the difference is, when you're tired, can you still be powerful? That's what those explosive lifts and working on sprints and being able to recover, different energy systems help with. It's been awesome and I can feel the extra power and explosion from that specific work.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): We've seen two different versions of Shayna Baszler in your last two fights. In the Sara McMann fight you were more reactive, looking to counter on the feet and wait for her to make the move, but in your last fight against Sarah D'Alelio, it was you moving forward and you were the aggressor. Which style do you think we can expect to see against Alexis Davis this time around?
Shayna Baszler: I think you'll see more of the attacking style for this. I was really reactive with Sara McMann just because we were so wary of her takedowns. We knew the one way she could really beat me in that fight was to take me down and be defensive because she was not very active. Her wrestling is good enough to hold someone. We were very wary of going after her simply because we didn't want to give her an easy takedown.
I don't feel that threat from most of the girls in my weight class. I feel lime my wrestling is some of the best in the division but I'm not going to wrestle an Olympic silver medalist.I'd put my wrestling up against anybody else. I don't think I'll be as wary. Even then, I train with a lot of wrestler and it's something that can be said about the midwest. The problem I have in the gym with those wrestlers is being held. I don't feel like they can do anything to me but they can hold me down.
Alexis Davis, I don't think that's her style. She's not going to just sit on top of you without trying to advance or create something. Even if it happens that I end up getting taken down from getting overzealous striking, it's just strategy for specific opponents. You won't see me as passive here as I was against McMann.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This fight is actually a rematch. The last fight, Davis took it on short notice and faded a bit in the third round. What are you expecting to be the biggest changes heading into this one now that you'll both have more time to prepare and you've had two and a half years to improve?
Shayna Baszler: Well, it's really strange to think about but that second round when she had my back for most of the round, the reason that happens was because I had been taking judo for a while before that and I tried this judo throw that should never be tried by someone like me. She ended up getting my back and she's a good enough grappler that if you make a mistake against her, you're not gonna have an easy time. Since then, I've concentrated a lot more on a totally different stand-up grappling style than I had back then. It was short notice for her, but strategy-wise, it was short notice for me as well.
I think I'll come in with a better gameplan and she'll obviously be in better shape. Everyone knows Alexis Davis is tough. We went three rounds and I didn't finish her and it was a barnburner. As far as her gameplan, there's probably certain aspects of the game, places she felt safe where she doesn't feel safe this time. I think she'll try to avoid being taken down more than she did this last time. It's definitely not going to be the same fight because we've both changed so much since the last time out.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were actually supposed to be fighting her not that long ago but she signed with Strikeforce and the fight got cancelled. Do you feel like you've been preparing to fight her again for a long time now?
Shayna Baszler: I actually had a couple other offers since that fight fell through and just with Invicta and being so active with them now, it hasn't been an issue. I'm excited because her and I have hung out. It's a small world when you get to the upper echelon of the females. I think we know each other so well that this fight is gonna be..the fan in me wants to watch it from the outside.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Just based off the last fight, you were both attacking each other from all sorts of angles and positions. I just feel like there's never going to be a moment in this rematch where either of you are perfectly safe and that really makes it interesting for me.
Shayna Baszler: Right, there's no position, even on the feet, where either of us can really rest so it's gonna be a really active, action-packed fight from start to finish.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about some of the implications of this bout. There's the huge news about the UFC adding a women's 135 division. Have you thought about what could happen with the fallout of this fight considering that if you win, you could be next for Ronda Rousey. They only have two girls signed to the UFC so far so this fight could almost be a tryout.
Shayna Baszler: There's no doubt that if they're talking about women's fights in the UFC in a weight class I've been successful in, I guarantee my name has been thrown around in conference tables somewhere as well as Alexis. I think this is a huge fight for both of us. That being said, I'm not one of those people, not that don't want to fight in the UFC, but I'm not one of those people that's going to blow up my twitter and start really campaigning for a UFC fight because a fight is a fight. Invicta is doing a good job and I just want to fight the best girls there are. Wherever there's a body to bend in a way that shouldn't be bent, I will be there and attempt to do that.
The UFC will come knocking as long as I'm doing my job so I feel like as soon as I start thinking about all the implications of this, it takes my mind off the focus. My job as of right now is to break Alexis Davis. Whether or not the UFC calls after that is their prerogative. If I do my job, everything else will fall into place.