History Lesson: The Journey of the Invicta Strawweight Title

On Friday, Nov. 20, Invicta Fighting Championships will host its 43rd event from Kansas City, Kan. The event will crown the eighth strawweight champion in promotional history. Let’s take a look back at the belt’s history.


Invicta FC 4 was the stage where the first-ever Invicta strawweight champion was crowned.

The main event was expected to feature Carla Esparza and Claudia Gadelha. Unfortunately, Gadelha was forced from the bout because of a broken nose and needed to be replaced.

Also training for a fight that night was Australian Bec Rawlings — neé Hyatt. Rawlings was set to take on Joanne Calderwood on the undercard, but got the call to face Esparza.

Rawlings was the underdog in the fight, especially considering the late notice. However, Rawlings showed up to fight the highly touted Esparza.

While Rawlings proved to be a tough opponent, Esparza proved why she was regarded as one of the best 115-pounders in the world. For five rounds, Esparza used her solid boxing and vastly superior wrestling to stifle Rawlings. When the buzzer went off at the end of round five, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Esparza was the first-ever Invicta strawweight champion.

It was a short run though…


Esparza’s championship win was quickly followed by the UFC opening its own women’s strawweight division. With that, the champion decided to join the new season of The Ultimate Fighter, where they had a tournament to crown the first-ever UFC strawweight titleholder (which Esparza would go on to win).

Esparza’s departure left a void. And that void was to be filled at Invicta 8.

Europe’s top 115-pounder, Katja Kankaanpää of Finland, was matched against top American prospect Stephanie Eggink. The bout was paired with an atomweight title affair for championship doubleheader.

Kankaanpää’s experience figured in heavy into this fight by many, and their assertions proved to be correct. Kankaanpää, the tough and gritty vet, was able to mostly stifle Eggink throughout the fight. The big X-factor was her grappling.

The fight went into the fifth round and Kankaanpää decided to hit the gas, preferring to score a finish over letting the judges decide. She got Eggink to the ground, slapped on a D’Arce choke and tapped out Eggink just over two minutes into the final round.

The title win was huge, but she was then tasked with being the first strawweight champ to defend her title.


Kankaanpää’s win was huge, but she had a big task ahead of herself, as the Invicta strawweight division was brimming with talent. Her first challenger would be a highly touted newcomer from Brazil named Livia Renata Souza, the self-described Brazilian gangster.

The struggle for the champion would be matching her ground game with that of Souza, as Souza is known for her top-level submission grappling. Unfortunately for the champ, that would be on display in this match-up.

After four rounds of fighting, Souza was able to slap on a triangle choke, forcing a tap from Kankaanpää, thus ending her brief championship run. Kankaanpää would retire from the sport a few fights later with that championship accolade to her name.

Now, it was the task of Souza to be the first strawweight champ to defend the belt. Her first opponent as champ was DeAnna Bennett, a respected veteran that has been in the position of big fights more than a few times. Bennett also happened to be 8-0 at the time, making this a battle of the unbeatens.

The co-main event of Invicta 15 figured to be the BJJ of Souza vs. the boxing and wrestling of Bennett. However, just 1:30 into the first round, Souza landed a brutal body kick that folded Bennett. Souza followed up with several punches and just like that, she had defended her title with a highlight-reel finish.

The UFC would eventually be in the future of Souza, but not before her next fight at Invicta 17.


Souza would be matched up in her second title defense against Angela Hill, a young fighter in the sport that had made The Ultimate Fighter despite having just one pro fight. Hill had washed out of the UFC not long after, and was ready to regroup under the Invicta banner.

Hill had begun her comeback with Invicta, scoring TKO victories in two bouts over Alida Gray and the aforementioned Eggink. Those two wins allotted her the resume to warrant a title shot against Souza.

Invicta 17 came around with Souza and Hill populating the co-main event in support of the bantamweight title in the main slot. Fans anticipated a clash of styles.

What they saw was a highly competitive bout. Hill used her solid Muay Thai skills and excellent athleticism to contrast with the top-level ground game and strength of Souza. Both fighters had their moments, but after 25 minutes it would come down to the judges’ scorecards.

The judges were split in who they thought took the victory; with two judges scoring the fight in favor of Hill, netting her the title and dethroning Souza in an upset.

Hill’s first title defense would take place at Invicta 20 against powerhouse Kaline Medeiros. The Brazilian Medeiros was known for her fierce knockout power and was a threat to put Hill out with one shot.

In a more clear-cut title fight for Hill, she was able to outpoint Medeiros on all the scorecards, defending her title and continuing her career resurgence after her initial UFC ouster.

Hill vacated the title after the win and headed to the UFC, as she received a late-notice opportunity. She’s been there ever since.


With the departure of Hill, Invicta again needed to fill a vacancy. So, the company looked to two of it’s top international stars to fill that need: Mizuki Inoue of Japan and Virna Jandiroba of Brazil.

Invicta 28 was the site where that vacant title would be filled. Mizuki was known to Invicta fans for her exciting style and impressive resume, while Jandiroba was an undefeated 13-0 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt looking to make a name for herself.

Like many of the title fights before it, Mizuki-Jandiroba was a competitive fight that had fans in attendance on their feet. Mizuki’s striking and Jandiroba’s grappling were both on display, in a great contrast of style.

For the second time in Invicta strawweight championship history, the judges were split on their choice for the winner. However, it was Jandiroba who got the judge’s tilt, making her the second Brazilian champ in the division’s history.

With that win, Jandiroba was then matched up with a fellow Brazilian Janaisa Morandin at Invicta 31 in her first defense of the gold. However, this time, she made sure to leave no doubt in the minds of the judges and fans.

In the second round, Jandiroba really made the grappling disparity apparent, as she dominated her countrywoman. She secured a beautiful arm-triangle choke, coercing a tap from Morandin and successfully defending her title.

As with the previous champ, Hill, Jandiroba would be offered a UFC contract and would then vacate the title to pursue that endeavor.


To fill the void left behind by Jandiroba, Invicta decided to hold an eight-woman, one-night tournament to crown a new champion. The tournament would consist of UFC veterans Kailin Curran, Juliana Lima and Danielle Taylor; international stars Sunna Davidsdottir and Manjit Kolekar; Invicta mainstays Sharon Jacobson, Amber Brown; and top regional fighter Brianna van Buren.

Each quarterfinal and semifinal bout was one round, with the final being a three-round affair. The winner of that three-round fight would earn the Invicta gold.

The opening round saw Curran and Lima score split decisions over Davidsdottir and Taylor, respectively. Jacobson defeated Brown by unanimous decision and van Buren scored an armbar finish over Kolekar.

The semifinals saw two more definitive wins than the first round, though there were no finishes. Van Buren bested the favored Lima by unanimous verdict, while Curran did the same over Jacobson in what was seen as an upset.

The main event came and both fighters could taste victory. It was just 15 minutes (or less) away.

In what was an outstanding performance, van Buren completed the Cinderella run in which she outlasted UFC veterans and other top prospects to dominate Curran in the finals and choke her out in the second round. With that, the championship void was filled with a young, exciting star.

However, we would never see van Buren defend that title, as the UFC offered her a fight on late notice, effectively vacating the belt.


With the belt without a home, Invicta again had to put together two stars to square off for the gold. Invicta 38 was the site, and competing for the title would be Japanese phenom Kanako Murata and scrappy veteran Emily Ducote.

Murata had gained fame fighting for top Japanese organization Rizin and was known for her excellent wrestling. Ducote, on the other hand, was a former Bellator MMA flyweight championship challenger who had ransacked Janaisa Morandin in her Invicta debut to earn this slot.

This was another great fight. Murata had her moments where she showed off underrated striking and good grappling. Ducote showed off her good striking as well, as well as her scrappiness. They threw down for five rounds, warranting a call to the judges.

In what we can call another piece of brilliant matchmaking by Invicta FC, we saw another split decision decide the Invicta 115-pound strap. That decision went the way of Murata, making her the first Japanese strawweight champion in Invicta. It also, in the process, proved the worth of Ducote, who is now one of the best 115-pounders.

Murata never defended the title, though. She vacated the title and signed with the UFC, leaving the belt without an owner once more.

That’s where Ducote and Montserrat Ruiz come in. The belt is on the line at Invicta 43. Who will add to the rich history of Invicta’s strawweight lineage?

This piece is a special contribution from Riley Kontek, a veteran combat sports writer whose work has appeared on Bleacher Report MMA, Combat Press and the MMA Intel Blog. You can follow Riley on Twitter.

Katja Kankaanpää: Exceeding Expectations

Sports, by their nature, are about the spirit of competition. Yet, the reasons that athletes choose to participate vary greatly from one to the next.

For some, it’s the drive for first place. Those are the same people that race from stoplight to stoplight like their life depends on it. Others seek an outlet from the daily grind, a way to separate from reality, even for a moment.

Then there’s the unexpected success stories. Where an interest turns into a hobby and before long, the hobby turns into a career. This is where you’ll find Finland’s Katja Kankaanpää.

The 33-year-old Invicta FC strawweight champion started her foray into martial arts with karate. Then submission wrestling. And finally MMA. But she never expected to stand atop the 115-pound division.

“My intention was to take just a few amateur fights,” explained Kankaanpää. “But plans changed along the way.

“I didn’t even dare to imagine that I would be fighting at such a high level and be a champion.”

Fighting professionally since 2010, “Killer Bunny” tore through the competition in Europe, earning her a place in the Invicta cage. In her third appearance with the promotion, Kankaanpää was tabbed to compete for the vacant strawweight belt.

The Finn battled opponent Stephanie Eggink into the fifth and final round at Invicta FC 8 last September. Even with the stakes at their highest, Kankaanpää remained calm, cool and collected.

“I had no pressure going to the fifth round. My corner gave me simple direction: just fight, not to give up,” explained Kankaanpää.

“I knew that I had to finish the fight to win. Even if I won the fifth round, I probably would’ve lost by decision.”

In the final round, Kankaanpää ensured there would be no need for the scorecards, submitting Eggink with a D’arce choke and capturing the title.

“It felt amazing,” recalled the champion. “It was something that I couldn’t imagine beforehand. Think I will never feel the same again cause it was something so unique.”

By winning the belt, Kankaanpää became not only the first Finnish title holder in Invicta history, but also the first European to wear gold. Despite the history-making performance, she humbly discounted the achievement.

“There are good fighters from Europe and Finland and I’m one them,” she declared. “When you have a good team behind you, you’re motivated and have high level skills, you will succeed wherever you’re from.

“[I] just want to show that dedication and hard work pays in the end; that I earned my place at the top.”

On Friday, April 24, Kankaanpää will again have the chance to showcase her skills and her hard work. She’ll defend her title for the first time against unbeaten Brazilian Livia Renata Souza in the main event of Invicta FC 12 in Kansas City, Mo.

“She’s a very good opponent for me and will put my skills to the test,” proclaimed the fighter. “I think there are no easy fights at this level anymore. She is very active and will want to submit me, but I’m not an easy win.

“I want to show that I’m the champion.”

Against Souza, Kankaanpää will find herself facing another grappler. It’s a change of pace after facing decorated stand-up practitioners Joanne Calderwood and the aforementioned Eggink in her last two Invicta contests.

“It’s nice to be able to fight against different type of fighters,” said Kankaanpää. “My last two fights have been against strikers and now I get to fight against same type of a fighter as me and I feel very good about it. I’m looking forward to the fight.”

To add to the challenge of defending her belt, the bout with Souza will mark the first time that Kankaanpää will headline an Invicta card. However, the bigger stakes aren’t affecting the champion.

“[There’s] no extra pressure. Actually I’m very excited about it and I’m very honored for this opportunity,” said the Finnish fighter.

“I hope to put up a good fight for all the fans. Hopefully I won’t be in such dangerous situations in this fight that I was in the last one, but hope the fight will be full of action.”

If Kankaanpää’s past fights are any indication, she’ll put on a show on April 24. And like so many aspects of her career, it’ll once again eclipse what she expects to happen.

Katja would like to thank all of her fans and family who have supported and encouraged her along the way. Also her teammates, manager and coaches, and her sponsors who have supported her throughout her career.

Invicta FC 12: Kankaanpää vs. Souza Full Fight Card


Kansas City, Mo. – Invicta Fighting Championships today announced the entire fight card for Invicta FC 12, which will stream live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass on Friday, April 24, from the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

Headlining the event will be a strawweight title fight between Katja Kankaanpää (10-1-1) and Livia Renata Souza (7-0).

Finland’s Kankaanpää captured Invicta gold at Invicta FC 8 in September with a fifth-round submission win over Stephanie Eggink. The 33-year-old has amassed 10 wins in her 12 career fights and will look to defend her 115-pound belt for the first time.

The Brazilian Souza will enter the contest with an unblemished record. Six of the 24-year-old’s wins have come via submission, including five in the first round. The fight with Kankaanpää will also be Souza’s promotional debut.

In the night’s co-main event, flyweight Roxanne Modafferi (17-11) will square off with Brazilian Vanessa Porto (17-6). The pair met previously in 2008, with Modafferi earning a third-round TKO victory. Modafferi has earned back-to-back wins inside the Invicta cage, earning decisions over Tara LaRosa and Andrea Lee. Porto, who challenged for the Invicta title at Invicta FC 5, also rides a two-fight winning streak, including a decision win over Zoila Frausto at Invicta FC 7.

The full 10-fight card for Invicta FC 12 can be found below:

Strawweight Title: Katja Kankaanpää (10-1-1) vs. Livia Renata Souza (7-0)
Flyweight: Roxanne Modafferi (17-11) vs. Vanessa Porto (17-6)
Featherweight: Amanda Bell (3-2) vs. Faith Van Duin (4-1)
Bantamweight: Ediane Gomes (10-3) vs. Raquel Pa’aluhi (4-4)
Featherweight: Peggy Morgan (3-2) vs. Latoya Walker (4-0)
Strawweight: Lacey Schuckman (10-8) vs. Jenny Liou (3-1)
Atomweight: Cassie Rodish (5-4) vs. Stephanie Skinner (4-5)
Strawweight: Delaney Owen (3-1) vs. Sharon Jacobson (2-1)
Flyweight: Shannon Sinn (1-2) vs. Maureen Riordon (0-1)
Flyweight: Roma Pawelek (1-0) vs. Sijara Eubanks (0-0)

Tickets for Invicta FC 12 will be available for sale tomorrow, March 27, at 10 a.m. CDT at, all Ticketmaster locations, and the Municipal Auditorium box office.

About Invicta FC:
Invicta Fighting Championships is a world championship, all-pro mixed martial arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis. Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible match-ups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport. For more information, visit, follow Invicta on Twitter (@InvictaFights) and like Invicta on Facebook (

Invicta Strawweight Champion Katja Kankaanpää Inks New Contract

Kansas City, Mo. — Invicta’s reigning strawweight champion, Katja Kankaanpää, has signed a new contract with the promotion.

Kankaanpää, who has made three appearances in the Invicta cage, captured the 115-pound title at Invicta FC 8 in September with a fifth-round D’arce choke finish of Stephanie Eggink. The 33-year-old Finnish fighter also holds wins over Invicta veterans Juliana Carneiro Lima and Aisling Daly.

The “Killer Bunny” trains out of Team Botnia Punishment and has stopped five of her 10 career wins, including four by submission. The fighter is anxious to get back in the cage and welcomes all challengers in one of the most talented divisions in the sport.

“Invicta has given me a chance to compete at a high level and is able to offer me tough fights, so I’m very happy about them renewing my contract,” said Kankaanpää.

“I’m very motivated and I have been training hard towards defending my title many times. There are many girls in our division who want the belt and that makes me work even harder.”

And what message does she have for her future strawweight challengers?

“Train hard and believe in yourselves, but if you come to the same cage with me, you better be ready for war!”

Kankaanpää’s first title defense is expected to take place in early 2015.

About Invicta FC:

Invicta Fighting Championships is a world championship, all-pro mixed martial arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis. Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible match-ups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport. For more information, visit, follow Invicta on Twitter (@InvictaFights) and like Invicta on Facebook (

Fighting Words: Katja Kankannpaa

The “Killer Bunny” Katja Kankaanpaa returns to the Invicta FC cage in search of gold when she challenges Stephanie Eggink for the vacant World Strawweight Title September 6th at Invicta FC 8.

Corey Smith: Your last appearance in the Invicta FC cage, you suffered the first defeat of your career, a decision loss to Joanne Calderwood. Most athletes agree you learn more from your defeats than your wins. What did you learn?
KK: Most of all, I learned a lot on the mental side. The fight was tough and if I had been mentally stronger, the decision could have gone the other way. I thought that I was ready, but didn’t trust myself enough to take the win.

CS: You bounced back with a submission victory this past May. How important was it for you to stay active outside the Invicta cage?
KK: It was very important because otherwise the pause from fighting would have been too long. When fights are in steady intermissions you can keep a good touch to fighting. It also was very nice to have a fight at my home country, especially since it had been so long since my last fight here in Finland.


CS: Most fighters list the weight cut as the hardest aspect of being a fighter. Setting that aside, what do you consider the hardest aspect of being a fighter?
KK: Lack of time. Sometimes it’s hard to schedule my day. I have a day job and when I add in training to my day schedule, I haven’t much free time left.


CS: Invicta FC recently signed a content distribution deal with the UFC, specifically all future Invicta bouts will be available via UFC Fight Pass. What were your thoughts when you first heard about the deal?
 KK: Its huge thing and big step for Women’s MMA.

CS: Your bout on September 6th at Invicta FC 8, will be for the vacant Strawweight championship. How familiar are you with your opponent, Stephanie Eggink? What do you believe is the key to the matchup?
KK: I’m not so familiar. I just watched a couple of fight videos of hers, so that’s it. I just need to believe in myself and do my own things in the fight. I’m a well rounded fighter and I think if I just fight on my own level I can win the fight.


CS: The bout will see a new champion crowned in the Invicta FC Strawweight division. Does this carry any added pressure for you?
KK: I hope not =) I try to think that this fight is just one fight among others but I’m not sure if that works because I’m excited being in the title fight.


CS: Who generally accompanies you to the cage? What type of feedback and coaching do you prefer from your corners?
KK: My manager and one of my coaches are with me in the cage.  I just need simple instruction in a fight.


CS: For those that have not experienced it, how would you describe the walk out to the cage?
KK: I’m excited and focused on the fight. All the training is behind me and it is time to fight.


CS: Outside of the gym and MMA, what types of activities do you enjoy for fun? What helps you to relax?
KK: There are so many things that I would like to do, but sadly I haven´t much free time to do them. But just to mention a few: Climbing, swimming, cycling and running. I feel I’m always  going somewhere but when I’m a home I just relax watching movies with my husband and playing with our dog.


CS: Lastly, MMA takes a team to succeed alone inside the cage. Who would you like to thank?
KK: My team, coaches, manager and all my training partners who have helped me with training.  My family, my husband and my sponsors. I am very happy and pleased that I have people like you around me.


Invicta FC 8 takes place September 6th live from the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri. The full card will air live via UFC Fight Pass. Click below for tickets, or to subscribe to UFC FightPass.










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.


With a record of 7-0-1, Finland’s Katja Kankaanpaa, makes her US debut at Invicta FC 5 on April 5th.

Facing fellow undefeated prospect Juliana Carneiro Lima, Kankaanpaa wants to establish herself firmly as a factor in the Flyweight division. On April 5th, the world will learn who Katja Kankaanpaa is, and why they call her “The Killer Bunny!”

Corey Smith: How long have you been involved in MMA, and how did you get started in the sport?

Katja Kankaanpaa: I started to train MMA about 7 years ago. Before that I did Karate but submission-wrestling started to interest me more and more, which led me to MMA. The first couple of years I focused more on submission-wrestling and I thought that I’ll never compete in MMA. But eventually I wanted to test my skills in competition, and I’m still on that road.

CS: What is your favorite discipline to train? Which aspect is more work than fun?

KK: It’s hard to say any specific discipline, because I really like to train everything! Maybe that’s “the thing” for me in MMA; that the training is so diverse and I won’t get bored with it. It only depends on the day whether or not I’m having fun with training. Luckily those days happen rarely, when I really hate to drag myself to the gym to work my butt off.

CS: You hail from Finland, which seems to be rather rare in the world of MMA. How popular is the sport in Finland?

KK: MMA is still pretty marginal sport in Finland, but the number of newcomers grows steadily year after year. The media coverage is better than what it used to be, but there’s still a lot of work to do. We need fighters who are entertaining and who have a good personality, so it’s easier to get the sport more well-known here. There’s really good MMA-events all around the year, such as Cage, Fight Festival and Botnia Punishment.

CS: What is the level of popularity for MMA in Europe? What countries seem to produce more fighters than others?

KK:United Kingdom is a really strong MMA-country in Europe, and they have a lot of great fighters. Cage Warriors FC is a big and well-known organization in Europe. MMA is a growing sport in Europe and UFC has visited in England, Germany and Sweden, and they have always had sold-out arenas. England is probably the biggest marketing area. Of course East-Europe with the lead of Russia is another story and there is the M1 organization, for example.

CS: I’ve read that you generally have to train with men, because women in your weight class are hard to find in your area. What are the advantages and differences of training with male fighters, but obviously then competing against a female opponent? Where do you train?

KK: Yes, usually I have to train with men and they’re bigger than me, because it’s hard to find guys who are as small as I am. Training with men definitely has its pros and cons. I have specific training partners and they know me really well. They know how to train with me in a way, which is beneficial and hard for me but also keeps the risk of getting hurt at minimum. Because men are physically stronger than women and their level of strength differs, they have to train more technically with me in some drills. There are a few female-fighters in Finland who I train with and I always try to finish my training season with them. The problem is that we live in different parts of Finland, so if I want to train with them I have to travel a lot.

KK: I train at two different gyms, in my hometown at MMA Seinäjoki’s gym and in Kauhajoki, at Kauhajoen-Kamppailu-urheilijat gym where my MMA-coach is Jarkko Latomäki. It takes me about an hour to get from Seinäjoki to Kauhajoki.

CS: Where did your nickname “The Killer Bunny,” come from?

KK: We have a bunny who is 8,5 years old and her name is Alice. She’s like a dog to us. She’s housebroken and when we are at home she can run and jump around the house. The thing is, that she can’t stand other female bunnies. Once my husband and I were visiting one of our friends who also have a female bunny. After we got back home I said to my husband that we have to change our clothes, so Alice won’t smell the other bunny. Well, my husband didn’t change his jeans and it didn’t take long before Alice noticed the smell and she attacked my husband and he got bit in his ankle! Ever since we’ve called her Killer Bunny, and eventually it became my nickname too. The difference is that I won’t bite.

CS: Your fight on April 5th, at Invicta FC 5 will be your first fight in the United States. What does fighting in the United States for the first time mean to you? When will you arrive in the United States?

KK: I will arrive in US with my corner men on Monday (April 1st). This really is my first time in the US and I’m very excited about that! I hope that me and my opponent will have a good and entertaining fight and that after the match it will be clear to everybody who Killer Bunny is.

CS: This will also be your first fight under the Invicta banner. How has your experience with the company been so far?

KK: I have heard only good things about Invicta and our cooperation has been really good so far. They have been very professional in all they have done, and I’m grateful for the opportunity they have given me.

CS: How familiar are you with your opponent on April 5th, Juliana Carnerio Lima? Have you been able to view any film of her previous bouts?

KK: I have seen some of her fights on YouTube, I have watched on what kind of a fighter she is but that’s about all I know. I don’t watch many videos, I just want to focus on my training and prepare myself for the fight. It’s my coaches’ job to watch all the videos, in my opinion.

CS: On the day of the fight, do you have any superstitions or routines that you have to perform? What is your mood like on fight night?

KK: I have no rituals or anything like that before my matches. When it’s time to warm-up, I usually start to focus more on my match and everything else disappears around me. Then all I can think about is the fight ahead of me.

CS: Most fighters would list the weight cut as the hardest part of being a fighter. Setting that aside, what do you consider to be the toughest aspect of being a fighter?

KK: For me, it’s the lack of time. I have so little free time because I also have a day job. Sometimes it’s hard to schedule my life with work, training and family.

CS: Outside of the gym and the cage, what do you enjoy doing for fun? What helps you unwind after a long day of training camp?

KK: I just like to be at home and spend my free time watching movies with my husband, for example.

CS: Lastly, MMA is as much a team sport as it is an individual one. Who would you like to thank?

KK: I would like to thank my manager, coaches and teammates, who have taken very good care of me and trained me towards top condition! Special thank goes to my husband who has encouraged me to go forward. I would like to thank all my fans and sponsors too!