Later this evening, Lion Fight 21 takes place at the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California, the promotion's first trek to "The Golden State."
The card will air live at 10 p.m. ET on AXS TV.
Tiffany Van Soest, the former featherweight champion, will face Chajmaa Bellakhall, a Dutch champion with a difficult name to pronounce.
"I think the J is silent," Van Soest says jokingly. "Between her first name and my last name, you have your work cut out for you."
Now 10-2-1, the California-based fighter thinks this is a very good match up for where she is at this point in her career, and the fans are really going to enjoy what they see.
"Stylistically, it will be very aesthetically pleasing because she likes to come forward and she is aggressive and I like to counter and angle," Van Soest explained. "And so the plan is to let her fall on her own sword. If that doesn't happen, my Plan B is obviously to go at her and give her a lot of my... I wouldn't say I've reinvented myself, I've just made my strength even stronger and learned how to use my tools a little bit better. I've made a lot of tweaks and improvements as far as from my last fight."
In her last bout for Lion Fight, Van Soest finished off Sindy Huyer in the fifth round with a front kick to the face, followed by a left hook to seal the deal at Lion Fight 16.
That was her second win in a row since losing her title in a split decision to Caley Reece at Lion Fight 13. She was building up momentum once again and signed a brand-new deal with Lion Fight for four more fights.
Van Soest, 26, could have fought in November, but she chose another challenge: venturing to Holland to face Denise Kielholtz at Enfusion Live 22 for the featherweight title there. "Time Bomb" would struggle with the rule set, which features throws and sweeps similar to Sanshou competition.
"The rules were not favorable to my fighting style and preferences," Van Soest explained to MMAmania.com. "She has been doing Judo since she is a little kid so those rules definitely favor her strength, but I've wanted to fight Denise for a while because she is so good. After the fight she said, ‘I would never go in there (Lion Fight) because I'd never fight with elbows.' So I had to go and a fight under her rules and I did my best and gave her a pretty good run and ended up on the wrong side of a decision."
"Time Bomb," who has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, said she has put an emphasis on her flexibility and is a lot more fit for her current fight camp and feels a lot faster. Van Soest's home gym is Blue Ocean Muay Thai in San Diego, where she trains under Kru Alexander Palma. She also puts in work at the Black House gym; however, this time around she spent three weeks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at Roufusport with Duke Roufus.
"Duke really helped me re-embrace my karate roots and helped me implement that back into my style a little bit more," the former USKA Karate champion said. "He loosened me up a bit more because I was just doing a lot of traditional kickboxing. That kind of helped me with my power and punches and stuff, but it also took away from what I was able comfortable with, which was my loose, flowy, karate type style. He helped me bring that out of me a lot more."
The highly-touted trainer had great things to say about his experience working with Van Soest.
"Tiffany is a great fighter and a friend to my family," Roufus said. "She has a dynamic fighting style, but is so eager to add more to her ever improving game. She is so easy to teach and has a great attitude, dedication and fight IQ. She is a great kid and has second home with us out here."
"He is the man," Van Soest gushed. "He is a walking, talking, striking encyclopedia. The knowledge that guy spits out on the fly is insane. We will be doing a pad session and he will be explaining something and then he can just reference a technique or moment back to it, ‘oh yeah, back in 2004, so and so threw a spinning whatever.' He can just pinpoint out different things. He is so knowledgeable."
Lion Fight 22 has recently been announced for May 22, 2015 and Van Soest will be fighting Bernise Alldis in the co-main event. It's not typical for a fighter to have two fights lined up with a promotion, but the former champ isn't complaining about being active.
"Why not ?" she said. "If I can and I'm able, let's do it. I'll stay busy and it will keep my bank account happy."
With a win over Bellankhal at Lion Fight 21, that would be three straight in the promotion since losing the title. She's already scheduled for May 22 against Alldis, but has there been any talk about the featherweight title picture and her chances at getting another crack at Reece?
"There's some talk about it, yeah," Van Soest said. "It's being talked about, but I'm not allowed to say what's being talked about though, until after this fight."
But, that isn't the only topic she can't discuss. Recently, as a guest on the AXS TV show Inside MMA, Van Soest expressed her desire to try her hand at MMA after her current contract expires and said, "If all goes as planned, I will be making my MMA debut before the end of 2015."
Van Soest, who cross trains in No-Gi grappling and wrestling in between fight camps, was asked about that statement, but she couldn't comment on the matter.
"I would talk about it, but I would get in trouble again."
While no one knows what a future with four-ounce gloves holds, Van Soest will remain in the present day, competing in Muay Thai, fighting for Lion Fight, where she is one of the very best in the world.