In a matchup that harkens back to genesis of MMA world champion boxer Duda Yankovich takes on world champion Muay Thai fighter Miriam Nakamoto at Invicta FC 6 on July 13th.
After losing her very first MMA bout via submission, a bout she was wining, Yankovich decided to make her weakness a strength and began to train heavily with one of the all time greats, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Seeing herself as a modern day gladiator, Yankovich seeks to stand alone in the arena with her hand raised.
Corey Smith: The first martial art that you began training in was boxing. How did that come about? How many years have you been a professional boxer?
Duda Yankovich: Actually no, as a kid I started with karate-shotokan. Then after that I entered kick boxing and trained for 7 years, I was a part of national team of former Yugoslavia, then I moved to brazil and started at first with amateur boxing and than I went pro in 2005. I’ve been pro since then, and I am not retired yet from boxing, but for now I’m concentrated on only MMA. Who knows maybe, at the end of my sport career I might do one more boxing fight….
CS: With world titles on your resume in boxing, you have recently made the transition to MMA. How would you compare the world of Boxing to the world of MMA?
DY: I just have one world title; WIBA Jr Welterweight belt. I won it in November 2006 and kept it with success till 2009. Boxing is very traditional sport. People will always like a good boxing fight, but MMA made a change in the world of martial arts. Media, and big shows, very talented athletes made MMA as popular as football… and maybe more. I define the fighters as ‘modern gladiators’ and that is what the public likes. It is in our nature.
CS: After so much success in the boxing world, what made you decide to transition into mixed martial arts?
DY: After I lost my title by being inactive for more than a year due to an injury, I tried a few times to get it back or get another one like WBC or WBA. But being out of rhythm made me lose the first one and than I just got the fight with Ann Sophie Matthis, which was not even my weight class. However my disappointment in boxing came with my last title shot in Colombia, where I won the clean fight and the local judges stole my victory and didn’t give me the right for a rematch in Brazil or Serbia. So not getting the fair fight or fair referees was very bad to me and is very bad for the sport. So training at Team Nogueira, with all those names, it is easy to like MMA, and learn also.
CS: During your boxing career you faced Holly Holm, whom many contend is the greatest female boxer on the planet. Holm has recently retired from boxing to pursue MMA full time. How do you think her game translates to MMA?
DY: I accepted to fight Holly in her weight class, and in America, it is a tough one to win, lol. But she was a great boxer, very fast and strong and not easy to beat. In MMA, she will be great on stand up fight . I don’t know if she trains jiu jitsu or submission or wrestling, probably does, but in the beginning she might have a difficulty to fight girls who do more ground fighting.
CS: You train at Team Nogueira, a team known for its Jiu Jitsu. How much training do you devote to wrestling or takedown defense, when you have a strong striking background such as yours? What advantages are there training at Team Nogueira?
DY: After I lost my MMA debut by submission, and I was winning the fight, I realized that I will not be able always to keep the fight standing up, so I started intense trainings of Jiu Jitsu and submissions and even won some Jiu Jitsu championships. I do train wrestling also with my American coach, Eric Albarracin, and actually I love it all. I always prefer to keep the fighting up, but I am ready if the action goes to the ground. The good thing about Team Nogueira is that there are so many fighters, different type so we are almost never surprised. And we also have all kind of training at the same place, which makes our lives easier.
CS: This will be your third career MMA match, and your first with Invicta FC. How has your experience been so far with the company?
DY: I have known Invicta since I entered MMA as a very strong and respected company. The best girls are there. I consider it very important the fact that it is only womem, cause in our days female fighters are technically as good as men. It is nice to see all at one place. I appreciate that Shannon and Janet gave me the chance. I am very happy with all that happens.
CS: Your opponent on July 13th at Invicta FC 6, Miriam Nakamoto, is a world champion Muay Thai fighter. How familiar are you with Nakamoto? How do you think your style matches up with hers?
DY: It could be a good fight to both of us. Depending on the strategy, I know Miriam for her strength and very good kicking and knee techniques, and I do respect her for that.
CS: On fight night, what is your mood like? Do you prefer to be left alone and focus? Or do you try to distract yourself?
DY: I like to concentrate. I love to fight I have been doing that all my life. For me peace and concentration is very important. Zero distraction.
CS: You have spoken about enjoying outdoor activities such as surfing and climbing among others. What other types of activities do you enjoy solely for fun and relaxation?
DY: I love roller skating and wakeboard, not surfing, I do not know how to surf but I would love to learn for fun one day. I climb mountains but easy ones like on my feet just no equipment, more cause I love the nature. It calms me down, improves my energy.
CS: All things being equal, if both are on TV at the same time, are you watching MMA or Boxing?
DY: Tough question, lol. Depends who fights. But if a boxing fight is not someone I do like a lot, I will certainly watch MMA, even if I don’t know anybody who is fighting.
CS: Lastly, MMA is as much a team sport as it is an individual one. Who would you like to thank?
DY: That is a very important answer. Even when I was boxing, my team was everything to me, but now team is even more important.
DY: I would love to thank all my trainers and my conditional trainer also, my training partners.
DY: my sponsor Idea Nutrition which makes it all possible for me. My other supporters, like Analitica Pharmacy, Miguel Vieira nutritionist, Be One Training Clinic.
DY: My boyfriend who is always there for me, and Chris Vender, my manager.
DY: Special thanks to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, for being so special!