To say that Caitlyn Young saw it all in MMA would be an understatement.
Starting her 14th year as a pro fighter, Young has a staggering list of milestones in her career: she fought Gina Carano on CBS’s EliteXC map, the first time two women have fought a primetime MMA fight. She was a spokeswoman for Invicta FC (Young and Leslie Smith won the first ever Invicta Fight of the Night award) and later served as a matchmaker for the women’s promotion. She was even a member of the ill-fated Ultimate Women Challenge reality show, which featured several outstanding fighters of the future and never aired.
Again, she went through it.
Young is next in line for a fight in Atlantic City, NJ on Thursday night against Cindy Dandua at the PFL Lightweight Division Opening of the Season, which is streamed live on ESPN and ESPN +. The two were originally slated to fight over six years ago at Invicta FC 9, but Dandua withdrew due to problems with her visa and Young lost the decision in place of Raquel Paaluhi. This will be Young’s last MMA fight in three years.
“I was a little lost,” Young said of MMA Fighting. “I ended up fighting Raquel Paaluhi – and I had a great first round and then I got over – but I just moved and I could still sort of get on my feet, so it’s definitely better for me to have the fight now. … Surely I remember something and saw more [Dandois] since then. I remember planning it and I think it took two or three weeks and she left her because she had visa problems or something. “
At the time, Young was forced into three fights (with future UFC stars Liz Carmush, Leslie Smith and Lauren Murphy), so there were already signs that something was about to change. But if Young had defeated Dandua or Paaluha, she’s pretty sure her MMA hiatus would never have happened.
Now looking back, she is grateful that the cards fell out the way they did.
“I don’t think I would have done something like this in my career if I won,” Young said. “You hate to say, ‘Oh, I’m glad I lost the fight,’ because that’s never the case. But let’s say that you just fight and win, that doesn’t give you the same heavy realization that I need to change something. During these four years I returned to Thai boxing, fought very, very often and started matchmaking. And in both of these endeavors, I just learned so much that it changed the fighter I am today. It’s good that it happened for me, definitely for my development as a fighter and as a coach, in fact. “
“I think I lost four in a row or something, and it was just, well, obviously something wasn’t working,” she continued. “Raquel, she fought a lot, but she came on time, so I think it’s even more like something is wrong here. Not to mention I cut her pretty well in the first round, I should have [win]and I just wasn’t thinking where I should have been. “
Young returned to her Muay Thai roots, which led to a more active schedule and a kind of clearer palette. Her role as matchmaker at Invicta in 2016-2018 gave her a fresh perspective on the business and ultimately led her back to fight for a promotion.
Young has now added the trainer to her resume by opening her own Striking Institute gym in Minnesota. She recently celebrated the gym’s first anniversary, opening just before the COVID-19 outbreak. Again, her Muay Thai connections helped solve this problem.
“It was crazy,” Young said. “What really saved us was that when we opened we had a team of Muay Thai fighters and they all came with them, were great and still supported the gym during the closing time. So obviously we didn’t do anything, but we didn’t go broke. Because we weren’t entitled to a squat because we hadn’t been in business for a year, so it was just, like we had some savings, but we were trying to pay you your rent because we were all involved, luckily I am able to fight in July. But yes, it was not easy. “
Dandua’s rebooking isn’t the only déjà vu that Young will experience in his PFL debut.
Young competes for the first time in New Jersey since fighting Carano at the Prudential Center in Newark. Not only was Kimbo Slice in the main event with this roster, and future UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in the co-main, but both Young and Carano were prominent in the market as the main card at a time when women were all it was still allowed to compete in only three categories. minute rounds.
Young lost due to the doctor stopping between the second and third rounds, but aside from the outcome of the fight, Young recalls that the experience was unpleasant for other reasons.
“It was hard for me,” Young said. “It was really hard for me, all the media attention and the way people in your life start to behave differently when you get that kind of attention. It was really very difficult, I think I was young and knew about it because there was no gradual build-up of it. I hosted these battles in the middle of the Midwest somewhere behind a bar, and now I am in front of five million people. The jump was really sharp for me. I’m kind of an introvert too, so that was a lot. “
“We are social creatures,” she continued. “Not everyone is like that, of course, but anything that changes your social position will change the way some people relate to you. I have always been a fighter, the only thing that distinguished me was fame. It’s not even that much, it was one fight, but I think the contrast was sharp and it made some people in my life behave very differently, some people in the gym behaved differently. It was a real challenge, and now that I train, I don’t forget about it when we have people who come to big shows. I’m just trying to prepare them for this. “
Young is currently in one of the best spots of his career, having won four of his last five fights. Her 11-10-1 record could lead some to overlook her chances of getting into the upcoming PFL season, but she’s already past a point where she’s worried about how accurately her stats actually reflect her accomplishments.
“I guess it’s not in my head,” Young said. “My thing is already, like, people are watching and walking, ’50 -50 ‘, so my record at the moment is the same. I don’t think it’s that much, I think I look at it more like I’m just taking the experience of all these fights.
“And sometimes you get experience from what you do with other people, and sometimes you get experience from what has been done with you. I look at it like I’m taking it all with me to a tournament. ”
After Dandua, Yang is guaranteed another PFL regular season fight, and the field of potential opponents includes veterans, relative newcomers, reigning lightweight champion and two-time Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison.
This scenario may have worried the Young Years past, but now? Another day at the office.
“I was a little crazy when I was young,” Young said. “Now, when I find myself in these situations, it was like I was there, I was in all these crazy situations, fought internationally, in super difficult fights. I haven’t seen much, so I feel physically, technically and emotionally prepared for whatever the hell is going to happen. Bring it on. “