Relying on faith and hard work, Belgium’s Cindy Dandois makes her United States debut November 1st at Invicta FC 9 against veteran Kaitlin Young.
Corey Smith: You initially took up martial arts as path to greater fitness. At what point did it occur to you that martial arts might be more than fitness to you?
Cindy Dandois: Well I started to beat some boys of my weight class after a short while of training during grappling practice, in my gym Perfect Team. That’s my brother’s gym. I started MMA because that was the easiest way. My brother had his own gym so I did not have to pay and I could go whenever I liked it. I had two kids that time so time management was important.
CD: My brother told me after a month I should do amateur fights. That was good for me because actually I am kind of lazy. If I don’t find any competition in it is difficult for me to train hard. My brother searched for fights but in Europe there are almost no girls at my weight class, and if they are it was in other countries. After a few months they asked my brother if I could fight Marloes. After this fight I could go back to amateurs they told me. Cause nobody expected me to win. I was like, ok that’s a great experience, let’s try it out. The rest is history.
CS: Along with fighting Coenen, you had never even worn gloves before. What was the experience like for you?
CD: I started training in my brother’s gym in September and my fight against Marloes was January. I knew about 8 weeks before the fight I had to fight her. So I was training about 4 months in total and 8 weeks of good preparation, and I never had an MMA fight before, including amateur fights. I had never worn gloves in the years before either.
CD: But when I was younger I did judo for years. I guess that helped me a lot. I have no competition stress. I go, I fight because I like it and I go home. My brother, who is also my coach, does the stressing part for me. HAHA.
CD: When I started training I was weighing about 180lbs. I really needed to lose weight and I was like, ok this fight is a goal. It was set for 154lbs and the day of weigh-ins I was about 152lbs. That already was a big win for me, the fighting part was fun. I had nothing to lose and nothing to prove. I was the 0-0 nobody as they called me. I know they just asked me for that fight to get beaten up, because they paid me almost nothing, I was a cheap and easy walk over they thought, and to make Marloes shine they could use me!
CD: The moment I got the first hit by Marloes I was like, ok, I can do this. That time it didn’t felt that hard. I wasn’t really surprised by her power. Also on the ground I felt good. I love to fight on the ground. But at the end I still think that Marloes was the overall better fighter that time, just she could not show it in that fight.
CD: I think she underestimated me big time. She thought it would be an easy win cause of my totally no experience. I surprised her I guess already from the first throw and my ground game was more solid than she expected. Of course her striking is better and on paper she is better, but guess what, sometimes you meet the wrong person at the wrong time. Anyway it was a great experience to fight Marloes. I am happy I did it.
CS: You hail from Belgium, rather rare in MMA. What is the MMA community like in Belgium and Europe in general?
CD: It is very difficult to find fights in Europe and in Belgium it is even worse! It’s already hard for the boys but for the girls it is almost impossible in Belgium. You can’t live from fighting. For example, I got 300 Euros to fight Marloes, without expenses to drive to Holland. The government doesn’t support it all.
CD: They say that MMA is an aggressive brutal sport and where they can boycott they will. We weren’t allowed to use a cage for years. With the hard work of some people we finally got that right. But still it is not that big as in US at all. If you say to people I do MMA, a lot of them don’t even know what it is.
CS: Along with being a professional fighter, you are a full time teacher. How do you balance out everything?
CD: I am a full time teacher and a full time single mommy of three kids. Actually I don’t know how I do it. It’s like I am always busy. I do it for my kids, but I have to say I couldn’t do it without the help of my family. I wake up in de morning, prepare the kids for school, bring them, go to my job, pick them up in the evening, feed them, make homework, bring my youngest to my aunty and I go with the kids to training.
CD: I train when they do kids classes. My kids love the sport too. Luckily! Sometimes I go and sit down about 10 in the evening and I feel so dead. And then I still have to prepare my classes for the next day, even when I feel like there is nothing left in me, total battery low. It all goes by on automatic pilot. If I miss one step in my day planning that means stress all day.
CD: The only reason why I still really want to do this all is because I hope to provide my kids a better life with it. I love fighting, but my family comes first. Every month is a financial struggle. Maybe I can give them something more by fighting. Maybe I can give them the knowledge that when life hits you hard, you can hit back. And with the will of God and hard work they can reach anything they want.
CS: Some fighters believe dating a fellow fighter can be a positive, while others prefer someone not involved in MMA. Where do you fall on the subject?
CD: Oh, I really don’t know. I am the best in choosing wrong partners. I like to have a relationship where the man is the man and the woman is the woman. I like the normal way, like the wife takes care of the kids, cooks, takes care of the house, she can work but the man has to work too etc. And the man fixes things and works, it’s the woman’s task to make his sandwiches and put his slippers ready when he comes home.
CD: In the house the man should be the boss, and the woman should be his guide. A woman has to take care for her man and a man has to respect his wife as he respects his own body, because we are made of his rib. I like how it was years ago but now I feel like women don’t know their place anymore and men either. I would love to find a partner who understands me in the sport and supports me but I would never take his place as a man. I really don’t know what’s better at the end, someone involved in MMA or not. I don’t care actually. I would already be happy to find a man, marry and have a normal family and a normal situation without violence and cheating.
CS: Your Invicta FC debut will be November 1st, at Invicta FC 9. The fan support shown requesting to see you fight was some of the strongest we had seen. What does that type of fan support mean to you?
CD: I was so surprised by the support I got from my fans. That meant a lot to me. Before I came to the US to train with Miesha I had already put my gloves far away. I was training some Jui Jitsu to remain active so I could teach the kids classes in our gym but I had no idea I would go back to fighting again. If it was not for Miesha and Bryan, who encouraged me to fight again I don’t think I would’ve done it.
CD: You see with the kids, training is like a luxury. If I get paid 300 Euros for a fight, and I have to pay my proteins, my material, my gas and parking money, etc. I lose instead of win money. That money should go to my kids first. So I decided to give it one more shot, after long talks with Miesha, and I saw all these people still having my back. Still wanting to see me come back, that gave me an extra boost. I am very grateful to have all this support.
CS: Your opponent at Invicta FC 9, Kaitlin Young, is an aggressive and exciting athlete. How familiar are you with Young?
CD: Of course I know Kaitlin. Not personally of course but I’ve been following her fights for years. I admire her striking and kicking a lot. She always brings good fights. Her fights with Leslie Smith were awesome! I was happy when I heard I could fight her because I will try to give her my best and I know for sure she will do the same thing so it will be an exciting fight.
CS: What is your mood on fight night? Do you have any routines or superstitions that you have to perform?
CD: I don’t feel stress for fighting. I love to fight. All the hard work is already done during training and during cutting weight. The fight itself is enjoyable. Who wins is in God’s hands, I am not scared to lose. I go to win and what’s more I can do it.
CD: I don’t have time to worry or to think what if, I don’t have any routines but praying. I pray not to win my fight, but to come out of it safe and healthy. I can not ask God for to win a fight. It is all in God’s hands the moment I enter the cage.
CD: He has seen me during training and He will decide if I deserve a win or not. All I can do is try my very best and show what I can do, the only person I really need by my side during a fight is my brother Ben. We started this journey together years ago by taking a jump to fight Marloes, and we will finish it together
CS: Who generally accompanies you to the cage? What type of feedback and coaching do you prefer from your corners?
CD: I can use more coaches but the most important one is my brother. My brother is my coach, my brother by blood and my best friend. There is nobody who can replace him, and he stresses so much before my fights, even more then before his own, that I feel I don’t even have to stress.
CD: He does the stressing and worrying part for me! Lol. Also my brother knows me the best in the world. He knows where I am strong and he knows where I am weak. He knows what he can ask me and I will hear his voice above every other. I know he will always have the best intentions with me, and of course we argue sometimes during training but at the end I know, my brother knows best.
CS: Outside of the gym and MMA, what types of activities do you enjoy for fun? What helps you to relax?
CD: Outside the cage I am a real housewife and mommy. I love to cook and take care of my family. If I find myself a husband one day I will spoil him to death! Haha. I can’t wait ;-)
CD: I like to watch Disney movies, I love second hand markets, I love spending time with my kids, my brother’s kids and his wife, my grandmother (the best grandmother ever), father, and the rest of my family.
CD: Also I enjoy teaching the kids classes in our gym. When my kids do competition and they do well, that makes me more proud then anything in the world.
CD: And on Sundays I love to go to church, that’s my time to thank God for all he does in my life. For getting me through difficult situations, to make my path for me, to help me raise my kids. God is always by my side and Jesus is my savior. When everything looks dark, God is my light. Shows me that I have so much to be happy for!
CD: So I could say that God, my family and Disney makes me happy and relaxed ;-).
CS: Lastly, MMA takes a team to succeed alone inside the cage. Who would you like to thank?
CD: I would like to thank my brother for his endless support and friendship.
CD: I would like to thank my father for all the hours he spends in the Judo gym with me when I was a kid and my grandmother for always being there, supporting and listening to me when I feel down.
CD: I would like to thank my aunty Kim and my nieces Maddy and Sally for helping me out with babysitting when I have to train.
CD: Also I would like to thank Miesha and Bryan for supporting me getting back to fighting and Shannon for wanting me in Invicta.
CD: I want to say thanks to all my fans for the faith they have in me.
CD: And finally I also want to thank God and Jesus Christ for always having my back and for looking out for me and my kids.
Invicta FC 9 takes place November 1st live from the RiverCenter in Davenport, Iowa.
Tickets are on sale via the Ticketmaster link below.
The full card will air live via UFC Fight Pass. Click below to subscribe to UFC FightPass.