FIGHTING WORDS: BARB HONCHAK ON WINNING THE INAUGURAL FLYWEIGHT TITLE
Still humble despite winning the inaugural Invicta Flyweight Championship, Barb Honchak looks back at her career defining win at Invicta FC 5 this past April, while simultaneously looking forward at the future of a division in our exclusive interview.
CS: It has been a few weeks since you won the very first Invicta Flyweight Championship. Has it sunk in yet that no matter who holds the title years down the road, you will always remain the first athlete to have ever held the title?
BH: I am not sure I will fully understand what this means to me until I am well into my retirement. I am very happy to hold this title from Invicta, as I feel it is a very legitimate world title.
CS: What types of changes have there been since you won the title on April 5th?
BH: I cannot say that there really have been any changes. I expect Invicta to continue to challenge me with the best women in the sport. I will continue striving to change and improve as I always have.
CS: What did it mean for you to bring a title back to Miletich Fighting Systems, with the long list of champions that have trained there?
BH: I think of all the emotions I experienced from this fight, the most intense were with regard to this topic. There is such a huge history with MFS producing champions and at one point it was said they would never produce another.
BH: I love to prove people wrong when they throw absolute words around like ‘can’t’ or ‘never.’ There is still a huge knowledge base there. The team weaned down a bit for a while but it is on the rise again, and I will not be the last champion from MFS. I just got the ball rolling again with the help of my coach Junior Hernandez and our personal Yoda, Pat Miletich.
CS: What did it mean to have Pat Miletich corner you for the bout?
BH: Having Pat in my corner was incredible. He understood what this fight meant to the gym and I. Junior is a great knowledgeable corner, but having Pat there was like having an extra security blanket. I knew he would see things I didn’t, and when either of them yell something at me, I know I do not have to second guess them. I know they are right about what they are asking me to do.
CS: What was the reaction at your gym when you brought the title in for the first time?
BH: The first time I brought it up was for my BJJ coach Pedro Silveira, who was visiting from Brazil. He and a few of the other guys took pictures with the belt and I. I know they are proud for me, and with me. All of them helped earn that title. It belongs to the team, not just me.
CS: Vanessa Porto posed a stiff challenge in route to your victory to claim the title. How did you see the fight going beforehand? And how much did that differ from how it actually went?
BH: I did expect a more intense fight than what we had. I expected more exchanges and even more clinch and ground work. However, when I tried to visualize our fight before hand, I always ended up focused on standing with her. So I suppose I really did expect it to stay on our feet. I assumed she would look at me in a similar manner as she saw Tara, so I was not very surprised that she kept the same game plan.
CS: How confident were you that you had won the decision when the final bell rang?
BH: I am used to feeling more dominant than I did in that fight. I knew I had landed more strikes and I knew I pushed the pace for the majority of the fight. But you never know what the judges do or do not see, or what they were looking for.
BH: I did not feel like I made major statements in all the rounds. So at the end of the fifth round I looked at Pat and asked him if we had it. When he confidently said yes, I knew it was ours.
CS: Looking at the Invicta Flyweight division, what are your thoughts?
BH: I think there is still a lot of talent out there that I have not fought yet. I also see a good number of 135lb girls potentially dropping to the 125lb division. I believe I have already fought some of the best, but many up and coming fighters are looking quite impressive and I believe I have plenty of challenges ahead of me.
CS: It was recently announced that Leslie Smith would drop to Flyweight and face Jennifer Maia in July at Invicta FC 6. The winner will earn the right to challenge you at a future event. What are your impressions of both fighters?
BH: This is the first I have heard of the match and of Smith dropping. I think that will be a great fight. It seems to be a bit of the classic striker versus grappler type of fight. Smith will have the reach advantage on Maia, but Maia has a lot of experience and will have a plan for that, no doubt. Either fighter would be a great opponent for my next fight. I look forward to watching.
CS: Where do you keep the title belt now? Do you take it to dinner with you or sleep with it like other champions?
BH: I think at the moment it is in my bedroom. So, in a way, I guess I do sleep with it. The only trip it has made with me so far is to the gym, but I suspect it will be making more outings.
CS: Are there any perks to being the champion that you didn’t realize before? Do you get a closer parking spot at the gym?
BH: Haha! Not really. I hope it brings me a few more sponsors and fans, but nothing has really changed. I am still working hard and I still have a lot to learn.
CS: Now that you have won the championship, what are your goals moving forward?
BH: Now that I have it, I want to defend it, a lot. I have been told it is easy to obtain a title, the hard part is holding on to it. To prove yourself a true champion, I believe you have to repetitively defend your title as people constantly come for it.
CS: Lastly, as you mentioned, it took a team to win the inaugural Invicta Flyweight Championship, who would you like to thank?
BH: I want to thank my team and coaches at Miletich Fighting Systems in Bettendorf, Iowa. My conditioning coach Josh Howat with Big Five Strength and Conditioning.
BH: Thank you to my husband Tim Beeman, my family and all my fans.
BH: Thank you to all of my sponsors for Invicta FC5: POLANTI, ONE Coconut, Outlaw Fightgear, VII AD, KLENCH Mouthguards, Combatives Gear, Fight Soap, Throat Punch and SWOLE.