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Women in Sports: MMA Fighter, Lindsey VanZandt

In today’s day and age, women are taking over the combat sports world. Whether that is in boxing or MMA, female fighters are finally getting the recognition they deserve. One of those fighters is looking to make her own mark in the world of MMA in a unique division. Atomweight fighter Lindsey VanZandt has a goal to become the very best MMA has to offer.

A fighter from Invicta, an all-women MMA organization, VanZandt (5-1) recently had an opportunity to fight at Bellator 215, where she defeated Tabatha Watkins via second-round TKO. It was an impressive debut for a fighter in a division Bellator is now considering opening up, something the UFC has not done yet. She is looking for more opportunities within the company following her successful debut with them, while also looking towards the future.

Double G Sports’ Daniel Yanofsky had the opportunity to speak to Lindsey for the annual Women in Sports interview series.

(Photo provided by Lindsey VanZandt)

Double G Sports: What does it mean to you to fight like a girl?

Lindsey VanZandt: When people ask me that, I always question it. I fight like how any other person fights. If you’re a good fighter, it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a guy. Training with a girl and guy is different, but we all fall in the same category. 

DGS: Who inspired you to become a fighter?

LVZ: I looked up to all female athletes. When I was growing up I just knew I wanted to be a professional athlete because it was so cool to me. That was around freshman, sophomore year of high school. After my first Muy Tai fight when I was 18 I knew I wanted to be a fighter. I ended up watching Invicta, and I started watching the UFC when I was a freshman. Watching the girls in Invicta really inspired me. 

DGS: Your thoughts on Invicta providing a platform for female athletes to succeed?

LVZ: I truly believe they are doing a fantastic job. More and more people are watching Invicta. Being on UFC Fight Pass is very helpful. The platform they provide is awesome, and they do a great job with media day and their social accounts. They don’t pressure you to be someone you’re not. I love fighting for Invicta. 

In regards to how some sports/organizations/fans want female athletes to be portrayed: I’d rather be an awesome fighter and be known for my skills than because I’m pretty and I fight. 

DGS: How has Invicta helped your confidence in your ability?

LVZ: A lot. I lost my first fight with Invicta, but because of that, it lit a fire under my butt. I was a fan before coming to Invicta and it threw me off a bit when I realized I was fighting for the same organization. There were cameras all around me. From that, I’ve grown, and now that I’ve fought in Bellator I feel like I belong here. I’m still working on my confidence, but who isn’t? 

DGS: How important was it that Bellator gave you an opportunity to shine?

LVZ: I was so blessed that I got the opportunity. I didn’t realize I was going to be one of the first ones to compete at Bellator 215. It was exciting, especially since it was the first 105-pound fight for the promotion. It is great to give females that opportunity. Not to say the guys don’t have good fights, but with 1-2 female fights on a card, it lets us stand out more. Having that puts some pressure on us, and it is a way to prove ourselves to the world. 

DGS: There have been talks about Bellator being the first major promotion (non-UFC) to have a female atomweight division. Do you believe there is an opportunity for atomweights to succeed in Bellator? Will it happen soon?

LVZ: I don’t think they would include that on their website or talk about it within having the intention of going through with it. I really hope it happens sooner rather than later. 

DGS: What does being an atomweight mean to you?

LVZ: We are all built differently. To me, 105 is my home. I could fight at 115, but the girls there are probably walking around at 120-125. I’m a small 105er. To have all the different weight classes for women can definitely help in the long run. 

DGS: Is there anything MMA can do better to further accompany female fighters / treat them as equal with the men?

LVZ: I truly believe people are coming to these events looking forward to watching females fight. If anything, I believe there could be more media for women in combat sports. 

In regards to equal or better pay: For men and women, it would be great if you got paid more even if you were at different levels. If you are the top draw, you definitely deserve the money you are getting. The ones that are being built up could use something as well so we can train more and use our platform to grow. 

(Photo provided by Lindsey VanZandt)

DGS: You belong to American Top Team, home to some of the best fighters out there today. There is a strong foundation of female fighters there. How does it feel to be involved with that group?

LVZ: It is huge. Having women that are my size and train differently compared to the men is very important for growth.  It just depends on the person. It is all about variety. I went to ATT to train and it helped me build my confidence. They were all very welcoming and awesome and I learned a lot from them. Traveling to different gyms and getting different perspectives on martial arts is very helpful.   

I got to work with females from the UFC who are on a different level than I am and see how they train. I will definitely go back there because of the overall experience. 

DGS: Is there life outside of MMA for you?

LVZ:  I am looking to start a fitness and nutrition podcast soon. There is so much you can do within the fitness industry. I am involved in teaching fitness classes as well. I am always thinking of ways to help out other people. 

DGS: Is there a goal you have for yourself or women in MMA in general in the next few years?

LVZ: I obviously want to be the champion of Invicta, the champion of Bellator. I just want to be number one, the best. I’ve been working my whole life, sacrificing a lot in order to be the best. As far as women in general? More headline fights for women, especially in Bellator. It may take some time, but more opportunities are definitely coming, and it is truly a great time to be a female fighter. 

DGS: Dream opponent, regardless of weight, past and present?

LVZ: Would love to face Rose Namajunas, I’d definitely get a kick out of that. Gina Carano as well.  I’m not the type of person to take easy fights, it is not all about the record.

DGS: Any advice for young girls out there looking to get involved in MMA or sports in general?

LVZ: Don’t give up and believe in yourself. When you’re having a bad day, just keep on going. Like fighting, life is a roller coaster.

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Baseball Editor, Misc. Sports Editor. Covers all things combat sports (MMA, Pro Wrestling and Boxing). When he's not writing, Daniel hosts a podcast, The Main Event.
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