Bellator MMA comes to Pala Alpitour in Torino, Italy, this Saturday night (April 16, 2016) with its first-ever international event, "Bellator 152: Pitbull vs. Souza" and "Bellator Kickboxing: Torino" on the same night. Patricky Freire vs. Kevin Souza will serve as Bellator 152's late-notice main event after Derek Campos was forced off the card with an injury earlier this week (read full details here).
Earlier in the evening, however, Anastasia Yankova will make her Bellator MMA debut at Flyweight, putting her undefeated (2-0) record on the line against first time fighter Anjela Pink. If you don't already know Yankova, this response to her Internet trolls illustrates that the ravishing Russian is not playing around.
Yankova is something of a budding submission expert. Both of her wins to date have come via an opponent tapping the mat -- Eleonora Tassinari fell victim to a scarf hold armlock and Chommanee Sor Taehiran tapped via armbar midway through round one.
Recently, Yankova sat down with MMAmania.com to chat about her quest for a third straight win, the reason she wants to be known for her fights (not her good looks) first and much more. To cover any "lost in translation" issues, Bellator handled the back-and-forth by e-mail.
To start, I asked Yankova what led to her interest in mixed martial arts (MMA).
"I started martial arts as a child from ages six to about 14, I trained in Kyokshin Karate and competed in tournaments, that's when I developed my love for martial arts. Later, I concentrated on finishing high school and getting into college, but I always kept myself in fantastic shape. When I was 19, one of the Muay Thai coaches that was at my fitness club invited me to take his class, and that's how I got back into martial arts. Later I switched gyms and began training every day and started to compete in Muay Thai, and after that made the transition to professional kickboxing."
Yankova is pleased that she amassed a fan following in a relatively short time span in the sport.
"It's very heartwarming that fans want to support me and cheer for me and wish me well in competition. I am going to use that support to finish Anjela Pink at Bellator 152 on April 16. I use it as motivation to show them that I'm more than just a pretty face and that will be clear after my next fight."
With both of her professional wins to date coming by submission, I asked Yankova if she thought that was becoming her specialty as a fighter.
"I am new to grappling, and I like it. I learn new things in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and that interests me. Its not easy to train grappling when it's so new, especially since I have experience mostly in stand up, but right now I have an excellent coach Marcio 'Gracinha' Cesar, he is a black belt from Brazil here at AKA Thailand and I'm training every day learning new moves and paying attention to every little detail. It always feels good to finish a fight and I always try to finish my fights."
I asked her to rate her upcoming opponent's overall skill level, and Yankova says she's not as inexperienced as we've been led to believe.
"I saw one of her amateur fights. She has two fights in MMA just like I do, I think it's just a formality that they are not pro fights. She trains in the US and I just came from the US and the level of training there is much better then anywhere else. But for me, I step into the cage for a fight, with who it is, is merely a secondary matter. I am doing everything I can in the gym, and in the fight on April 16, let the best woman win."
Yankova says that some of her overly enthusiastic fans still haven't gotten the hint that she's not interested in their anatomical selfies.
"I'm afraid some people you just can't change. On the Russian version of Facebook I had to block people from sending me private messages, it was getting out of control. Fans asking to buy my sneakers or workout clothes so they can smell them. It's scary to think about this."
On a less scary note then, I asked Yankova if she wants to be an inspiration to young girls considering MMA. Yankova turned the tables on me by saying she wants to inspire EVERYONE ... not just women and girls.
"I don't think that all women should be involved with fighting. This sport is not for everyone -- but yes I would like to be an inspiration. But, I would also like to inspire men not to be weak. I often get letters from guys who say they watched my fights or my workout videos and it shamed them. They were ashamed to admit to themselves that they can't do it, physically and psychologically and watching me inspired them to try. They say well, if a girl can do it, so can I. And I think that's great. This sort of thing motivates me. It may sound condescending but I think it's very inspiring to affect another person's life, and not just one persons but many people's lives. If I can just change one person, to make them stronger, or get them to face their fears, or get off the couch and workout, even just one person, then what I am doing here is not wasted."
I consider myself schooled. You may, too, if you tune in to watch her fight Anjela Pink this weekend on Spike TV. Meanwhile, complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.
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