Katja Kankaanpää ventures across the Atlantic once more, this time looking to determine who the best Straw weight in all of Europe is when she takes on Scottish striker Joanne Calderwood December 7th at Invicta FC 7.
With a background in submission based wrestling and rapidly improving standup, the “Killer Bunny” will attempt to remain undefeated and prove that she belongs at the top of the Invicta FC Straw weight division.
Corey Smith: You started out in martial arts learning Karate, before moving on to submission based wrestling. What drove you to want to compete in MMA?
Katja Kankaanpää: At the beginning I thought that I will never compete in MMA but I changed my mind when I had trained submission wrestling and MMA for about two years. I wanted to test my skills in the ring/cage. I just thought that I will take a couple of amateur fights and that’s it. But MMA is very challenging and after competing in MMA I started to feel it’s my thing to do and I started my pro career.
CS: Thus far you are undefeated in your MMA career. What do you feel like are your biggest strengths? What do you feel like you need to work on the most?
KK: I like wrestling very much and cause of that, I like to train it and I feel very confident in the fight in that area, so I have to say wrestling is my biggest strength. I have said that I need to work on my standup skills most and I have done that, so nowadays I feel pretty confident in my standup also. I need to work all MMA areas if I want to be the best I can and improve myself all the time. My goal is to be a well-rounded fighter.
CS: With training camp injuries a common occurrence in MMA, how do you balance getting the full amount of training that you require but still guarding against injury? What does a typical day of training camp entail for you?
KK: I’m pretty precise who I train with because I train all the time with bigger guys than me. My training partners are very good, have high level techniques and they have had long training careers so they know how to train with me. Training is hard enough that I can improve myself but smart so that we can minimize injuries from happening.
KK: I have a day job so I train first time in the morning before work or just go straightaway to work and train just one time in the evening after work. Morning training is usually more techniques base training and evening training entails sparring, along with strength and conditioning training. And after evening training I have muscle maintenance; stretching etc, at home.
CS: Your last bout for Invicta FC was your first trip to the United States. Were you able to enjoy your time here? Was there anything that stood out to you as different from your native Finland?
KK: I enjoyed my last trip a lot. I met very interesting people, fight went good and I had time even to do some shopping in the mall. I think the United States and Finland aren’t so different. In the United States everything is just bigger and gasoline cheaper =)
CS: What are your goals for 2014 in MMA?
KK: Win the fights of course and keep evolving my skills all the time. I like to take my career one fight at a time, so I don’t know yet what the year 2014 brings.
CS: Your opponent on December 7th at Invicta FC 7, Joanne Calderwood, also hails from Europe. How familiar are you with Calderwood? What do you think the key is to this matchup?
KK: I have watched a couple of videos of her so I know her style. Many people say that the fight is wrestler vs striker base fight and I think it is too, although I have improved my standup skills. I think now we see who’s the best female fighter at Straw weight in Europe. =)
CS: Who generally accompanies you to the cage on fight night? What type of coaching and feedback do you prefer during a bout?
KK: My manager and one of my coaches are in my corner. They know me best and they know what to say to me. I’m very good keeping with the game plan and I just need basic instructions when I fight.
CS: Aside from fight prep, how much MMA do you watch purely for enjoyment? Anyone in particular that you are a fan of?
KK: Nowadays I don’t have so much free time to watch all events for example in the UFC but I try to watch as much as possible. I try watch also CWFC (biggest in the Europe) and Finnish events. Usually I watch via internet but a couple of times in the year I try to go and watch live some Finnish event.
CS: Your coach orders you to take a day off from training. How are you spending that day?
KK: I would spend my day off with my family just relaxing. Watching movies with my husband and walking out our dog Rocky.
CS: Lastly, it takes a team to succeed alone inside the cage. Who would you like to thank?
KK: I want thank my team, manager, coaches and training partners. Especially thanks to Hannu, my wrestling and strength and condition coach who has put me to the limits and pushed to carry on.
KK: Thanks to my family and friends. Also I want to thank my sponsors( Lapuan Piristeel OY, Aquaplast, PPT Peltiteos, GapCon, Fairtex, Manninen nutriceuticals, Puhdistamo, Top Level LTD, Studio Street, MyShot , Fight Sport Magazine, SJK). They have made my training a bit easier.