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Pannie Kianzad on Invicta, New Nickname, Katie Taylor and More



Pannie Kianzad is one of the most well-known fighters on the Invicta FC roster and is renowned for her crowd pleasing fighting style. Holding a professional record of 8 – 1 at the age of just 24, the Swedish standout is considered to have a very bright future in MMA ahead of her.

Kianzad does not currently have a fight scheduled, but she is happy with how her training is going. “Training right now is amazing,” she smiled. “I’m totally injury free; it’s weird to say it but I have no injuries, no pain. It has been really bad because when I was getting back into camp, my back totally went out – I had bulging discs in my lower back. They (doctors) told me ‘no MMA for two months’, so I did my rehab every day and I’m totally fine now.”

Kianzad suffered the first loss of her professional career to Tonya Evinger for the Invicta bantamweight title in September 2015, but she has taken the loss with a level of maturity far beyond her years. “It was my first full contact loss since 2011,” she began. “If I don’t do my work, if I don’t do my best and I don’t deserve my win, then why should I win? And I didn’t perform that night so I just take it as a learning experience. I mean, I don’t know many 24-year-olds with an 8 – 1 record so, I don’t really mind, I just really want to get back in there.

Kianzad trains out of Rumble Sports in Denmark, a gym that houses current UFC fighters such as Nicolas Dalby, Damir Hadzovic and Anna Elmose. She knows she is in the right place to further her career and spoke highly of the gym. “At Rumble Sports we do produce, not only good fighters at the moment, but we’ve always produced good fighters,” she said. “I mean, (Nicolas) Dalby has been competing for 10-12 years, we have Mats Nilsson who was our first UFC fighter and we have two females (Kianzad and Elmose) who compete at the highest level.

Of course, with the link between Invicta and the UFC, many wonder when we will see Kianzad in the world-famous octagon. Every fighter has such ambitions, but Kianzad is biding her time. “I would say of course it’s always a goal,” she explained. “But I think that all of the organisations before you get to the UFC is actually the most important part because if the other organisations weren’t there, nobody would come to the UFC.

Recently, Kianzad was in Rotterdam for her team-mate Anna Elmose’s UFC debut. Elmose faced home crowd favourite Germaine de Randamie at that event, and Kianzad explained that fighting away from home is something that she personally enjoys. “I’m always a big fan of fighting outside my home country, I like to be the underdog coming to another country. I would rather fight a home fighter than be the one fighting in Sweden.” Kianzad did go on to say that she would, one day, like to have the experience of fighting for the UFC in her home country. “Of course, it’s always been a dream to fight in the biggest league in the world and fight in Sweden. I would always be dreaming of, not in my debut, but doing a UFC fight in Stockholm or somewhere in Sweden. And I think I’d deserve it. I don’t think one defeat says everything about me, because I think Invicta produces fighters as good as in the UFC – most of their bantamweight and strawweight roster in from Invicta.

Kianzad went on to elaborate about her future. “I just think it’s a matter of time when it comes to signing for the UFC,” she stated. “So I’m not really waiting for anything, I’m just fighting my way up until it happens. As long as I get to fight and fight good opponents I’m happy.

In this ever-growing sport of MMA, female fighters are becoming more and more prominent. The term ‘women’s MMA’ has become popularised, but it is not a term that Kianzad uses. “I don’t like it,” she explained. “It’s got nothing to do with feminism or anything like that. It’s just, aren’t we doing the same sport?” With that said, the topic of the impact Invicta FC is having on the sport of MMA as a whole came up, and Kianzad spoke in glowing terms about the organisation and its president, Shannon Knapp. “MMA has been a super manly dominated world and Invicta are showing it is not only manly dominated, but that it’s for everybody. I think when Invicta came along, people were super interested and were like ‘f*ck, these girls are as good as the guys’. It’s not about what gender you are, it’s about how good of a fighter you are.

A common theme of Kianzad’s social media is that of one of her obsessions – pugs. Her face lit up when she spoke about them and explained her love of the dog breed. “I am totally in love with pugs! Like, I could actually die when I see one. I have pug shirts, pug socks, everything with pugs on them. I haven’t got one yet, but when I get my own one I’m going to dress it up in all different kinds of stuff, like a lamb suit.

As Kianzad came from a boxing background, a fighter she hugely admires is Ireland’s 2012 Olympic gold medallist, Katie Taylor. “She’s amazing,” Kianzad enthused. “Before I got into MMA, my career started in boxing in 2005. I’m always watching the Olympics, World Championships, Europeans and she was the first and biggest name I heard when I started boxing. I think she’s amazing and I’m really happy to see that it’s going well for her.”

Back to her MMA career, and Kianzad said, while she has no date or opponent confirmed yet, she is itching to get back into the cage and fighting again. “I’m just waiting, waiting, waiting,” she started. “Staying in shape and waiting.  I’ll fight whoever. I talked a bit in Rotterdam with Cindy Dandois, we both want to fight and we’re happy to fight each other. I was hoping for (Irene) Aldana as well, but for me, it doesn’t really matter, I just want to get a good match-up and to fight, so I’m not picky. So everyone tweet that you want Pannie on the card!

Recently, Kianzad has been introduced as Pannie “Sexy Scramble” Kianzad, due to the grappling positions she sometimes finds herself in. However, she had an announcement to make regarding that very topic. “For my next fight, I’m going back to my roots,” she announced. “I’m going back to my first nickname. I’m going back to ‘Banzai’. I just feel like that’s more me, it’s where I came from, and I want it back, so spread it all over the world.

In closing, Kianzad had a message for her fans. “I just want to say thank you to the fans for asking really cool questions and for always supporting me. After I lost my fight, I felt, you know, as an athlete you always think that you’re going to be forgotten or that people will forget what you’ve accomplished. I’m trying to rebuild myself and been going through a lot of personal sh*t, so I just want to say thank you to everybody who has continued to support me all the way.”

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Brad Pickett, “I owe a lot to this sport, it’s helped me out so much”



As Saturday looms closer, a new championship belt lies in waiting. Not just a new title, the first title bestowed from a young and growing promotion. Rise of Champions hosts its fifth event Saturday, in which new amateur and pro champions will be crowned.

Saturday is a great opportunity for the young promotion. Co-owner and former UFC veteran, Brad Pickett doesn’t look to compete with the bigger promotions like Cage Warriors or ACB, let alone the UFC. To his luck, Rise of Champions 5, doesn’t have to. While the UFC does have an event scheduled for the upcoming weekend, it happens to be the somewhat rare occurrence of a Sunday night show. Though, it does make sense, with the North American market free from the anaconda like stranglehold the NFL (American football) maintains for nearly 5 months of the year. Nonetheless, the Sunday night cards are strewn from the norm. Which is essentially what ROC looks to provide.

The regional circuit in Europe holds a good portion of quality promotions and Pickett wants to add ROC to that list. “I just want it to be a really recognizable name. Like for (people to say), ‘Oh, that’s a good show’. You hear that name and go, ‘that’s a really well worked, a really good show’.” It seems for the retired UK MMA legend, he couldn’t be happier. In describing what it meant to run a promotion, he said, “I just feel great to be a part of it. I owe a lot to this sport, it’s helped me out so much, and I just like to put back what I’ve learned over the years with my coaching but then also later, run a promotion, give guys a good platform to grow and showcase their skills. For me, in a way, I feel it’s my duty to do something like this and stay within the sport”.



The other co-owner, Mickey Papas and he began the promotion together, while Pickett still competed in 2015. Papas and Pickett have a long-standing relationship stemming from early in the former Bantamweights career. “My relationship with Mickey started off like this; I remember when I was fighting in Cage Rage back in the day, I knew nothing on the floor really. I was just like a stand up fighter. I knew a little bit but I was unversed, and then I remember going to do some Jiu Jitsu and then also bumping into Mickey. Mickey was more Pankration, which I thought back then, the wrestling side of MMA was more important than just Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the gi… he’s been one of my coaches ever since, even when I (went) out to America, I trained in America for a lot but also I’d come back in and train here. I had two teams, I had ATT and Team Titan.”

Upon further discussion of his promotion, Pickett revealed an aspect of his promotion which separates ROC from the rest of the popular regional promotions. “I like the fact when I have a pro main card of 4-5 fights and the rest of my card is amateur fights. Where shows like Bamma and Cage Warriors are predominantly only pro fights.” He continued, “I want to keep to my emphasis of young talent. And also in my pro fights people like Mike Ekundayo (an undefeated fighter coached by Pickett at Team Titan) who is the main event… I’m still trying to promote younger, unbeaten talent to help build themselves”.



Through his MMA journey, the retired fighter took many personal experiences while competing and coaching under a litany of promotions. He depicted one odd story in which, “I remember one of my fighters fighting on the show getting quite a bad cut on his eye. I remember seeing it backstage where I had other guys fighting on the show, later on the card, (guys) that I’m cornering. He’s just sitting back there and I said, ‘What’s going on, are you going to get stitched? The doctor going to see you to get you stitched up?’ He goes,

‘No, no, they gave me these steri strips’.

‘What do you mean they gave you steri strips?’,

‘They gave me steri strips to do it myself’. And I’m like,

‘You’re taking a piss’…

I went and complained, and they said, ‘Oh no, there’s one doctor, he’s by the cage side. He can’t come back and do the stitches. There’s a hospital just down the road why don’t you leave and go there?’ and I’m like you’re expecting one of my fighters to leave your show looking like he does with a massive gash on his face? It’s just like loads of things like that, it always happens.”

Having experience in the regional circuit, at the time that he did, Pickett was exposed to a lot. When asked about the preliminary conception of Rise of Champions, he explained it as so, “I’ve been to a of lot good shows in my career and I’ve been to a lot of bad shows. I’ve been to the best shows in the world as well. So for me, I knew that I have a very good insight on how a show should run, in front of the camera and more importantly behind the camera, because you get a lot of promoters who know how it should look for the camera but don’t know how to treat the fighters backstage or how things should run. Me (having) competed at the highest organization for many years, I know what that means.”

Pickett continued, “And it’s not a case of always about having money, it’s about proper organization, doing things well and at the end of the day knowing that, the fighters are the stars of the show. Where at some shows, they’re treating the fighters like cattle. (They treat them) like, go in fight and see you later, who’s next? For me, I am very much against that. Also, I felt the emphasis of my shows is to try and help grow and nurture, young developing talent… when I was doing it, it wasn’t really a career path for anyone, but now it’s a legitimate career path for young and aspiring athletes to be able to go out there and earn life changing money.”

As a self-critical person, Pickett believes ROC’s first four events turned out well, although he sees room for improvement. “I do believe they always can get better. One thing I can’t complain with, is the fights. The fights have always been really good, and at the end of the day that is what matters. There is no point of having this glitz and glamour, and spending thousands and thousands of pounds on lights, cameras, and just having complete dud fights.” Without much of a pause, he continued, “I do all the matchmaking myself. I do believe I know what are good fights and I put on some really good fights on my show. That’s what I am happy with. If the show keeps growing, then I can add a bit more glitz and glamour. A bit more on the production and things.”

One aspect he wishes translated better to the broadcast, is the ROC fighter ceremonies. “I do like a Pride thing, where there’s a ceremony before the start of the show where all the fighters come out in front of the audience, (all the fighters) on the under card. Then midway through the whole event, there’s a pause, a break and then we have another ceremony for the main card fighters.” In this certain structure, he believes the ceremonies not only add to the spectacle of the event but excite audiences for the fights to come. “It gives the (fighters) a bit more time in front of the crowd. And where, you may go (to) see Joe Blocks fight, but then you just see these two other guys come out and think, ‘Man, these two guys look like they’re gonna have a great scrap. I wanna watch that fight as well’… if you can get people interested in other fights on the card, it’s a win. That’s why I’m trying not to just make a good fight, I’m trying to make a good event where people go, ‘this is good, I would love to come to this show next time no matter who’s fighting’.”



While ROC does not occupy all his time, the hectic nature balancing multiple jobs earned Picketts attention as soon as he retired. He claimed, “Its weird, I’ll be honest with you, it was so much easier when I was a professional fighter. All I had to do is concentrate on myself, get up in the morning, train for a couple (of) hours, relax, (then) train a couple of hours in the evening and that’s it. It was so much easier. Also, I earned great money when I was fighting towards the end of my career. But now, I have to go back to the hustle… it’s not always about being financially rewarding but that obviously is important, I have a kid. I’ve got a house, a mortgage to pay. So that is important but, it also is to try to do what I like doing as well”.

It is evident, even from afar, that retirement hasn’t worn out the rugged mentality training and fighting gave him. Besides co-owning a promotion with his friend and business partner, Mickey Papas, Pickett hosts a weekly podcast (The One Punch Podcast), has a beautiful family (with an adorable son you can catch on his Instagram account), coaches fighters, trains average citizens, and travels for seminars. Yet, he finds time for all of it.

I imagine it would be hard to find another human like Brad Pickett. His youthful exuberance, tough mentality, and pragmatic nature make him an impossible character to clone. Speaking to him and feeling those qualities, only magnified the respect and admiration I had for the man. The MMA community is lucky to have Brad Pickett, and even luckier to keep him inside of it.

Rise of Champions 5, takes place this Saturday, February 16th at the Brentwood Leisure Centre, in Brentwood, England.

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Fighter to Watch

Jonas Magard, “This is all I do. I don’t have anything else”



In the late hours of this upcoming Saturday night in the Greenwich Mean Time Zone, a new Bantamweight champion will earn his crown. A little over 300 feet from the A12 in Brentwood, England, inside the Brentwood Centre, is where it will all happen. The medium sized venue will host Brad Pickett and his Rise of Champions promotion, for their fifth event and second with the venue.

An important event, ROC 5, represents something greater to a few different people involved with Saturdays show. For the promotions co-owner Pickett, it represents an opportunity to capture American audiences on a UFC-less Saturday while being broadcast exclusively on the world-leader’s streaming service, UFC Fight Pass. Although the former UFC contender has a lot riding on the success of his shows, ROC 5 may mean less to the owner than to both his main event fighters. Currently, the ROC 5 main event is set to determine the promotions first ever champion when Denmark’s Jonas Magard takes on London’s own, Mike Ekundayo.

Both young, talented, and riding unbeaten streaks, this main event represents a major stepping stone in their careers. In the case of Jonas Magard, “It’s just a new opportunity to do something, to put my mark on things. With or without the title I just want to fight. He’s in my way to something bigger”. His words echoed his demeanor. While the Danish Amateur MMA Champion, wanted to behave excited for the opportunity, fighting under the ROC banner, his attitude simply would not allow him. “I can’t wait to see how they put on the show and stuff, I think it’s going to be fun. But again it’s just me and him, it’s not about the show… I have not been training to fight at that event. I’ve been training to fight that guy and if it’s that’s event or if it’s in the backyard, it’s the same for me”.

Not only was the young Danish fighters’ mentality impressive but his record as well. At 8-3, Magard owns 7 stoppages, 6 by Japanese neck tie. The same submission he defeated Michail Chrisopoulus, with a little less than half of the opening round remaining, in his most recent appearance at ACB 75. And the same submission in which he holds the record for most finishes.

His journey to this point could not be described by the meager word, easy. After training for a year and two amateur fights in his home of Jutland, Denmark, Magard decided to make a change. “I went to Copenhagen to try to train there, in one of the bigger gyms and they just opened their arms and welcomed me. So, I thought why not move? I was 19 at the time. I didn’t really know anybody in Copenhagen”. He continued, “the first couple of times I was over there, I would live with some of the guys from the gym. I would have an amateur fight coming up, so I’d stay there for a month… I would still have my address and live back in Jutland, but I would just go over there do my training and my training camps”.

Magard travels quite a bit for his MMA training. In his current situation, Magard splits time between Rumble Sport in Copenhagen, Denmark and All Powers gym in Manchester, England. “I think a lot of fighters, they get too comfortable in their own little circle of fighters and in their own gym, where I like to just go out, get the best training work whether it is in Denmark or wherever. I don’t care about traveling or getting pushed as much as I can”.

He’s made a routine of being uncomfortable, something he does not think can be said of his opponent, “I think he hasn’t been battle tested, the same way as I have. Yeah, he’s a good opponent, he’s a guy I have to beat. He’s undefeated… but you know, I don’t think he’s been battled tested as he’s going to be now, with me (in) this fight, it’s just different”.

“I’ve seen his opponents and his opponents are okay but, they didn’t have a lot of fights either like he don’t. Not even as an amateur. As an amateur, I fought the guy who just fought for the Cage Warriors title, Alexander Jacobsen, he had like 125 boxing matches… I fought the guy who is going to fight for the Cage Warriors flyweight championship, Sam (Creasey)… I had the hard fights as an amateur, I don’t think he had the hard fights, that’s the difference about over here in Scandinavia. We get battle tested,” he continued to elaborate, “in amateur, people don’t get built up, people are getting hard fights. I had two fights the same day, for the Danish MMA amateur championship… I’ve been facing guys who I know come there to win, who’s just not there to be food… this is all I do, I don’t have anything else, I don’t have a day job I’m going to everyday and that’s the difference. I’m a professional, I live off this, I live for this, this is all I do. He has not met anybody like me before, who has the experiences I have.”

Magard believes the experience he earned through his MMA journey is what separates himself from his opponent. Outside of MMA, the Dane fought two shoot-fighting matches and one professional boxing bout.  “He is a good fighter, he is a good strong fighter but I know the guys over here, there stronger side is not the ground. The wrestling in England, people want to punch each other in the face they don’t want to wrestle. I come from a place where people like to wrestle. And during this fight camp, I’ve been training with the (Danish) Greco Roman Olympic silver medalist [Mark Madsen]. I’ve been training with Martin Kammpman the former Danish UFC fighter… I eat I sleep I breathe MMA every day and I don’t want anything else. That’s going to be the difference in this fight one hundred percent”.

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Interview: The Sit Down featuring Manny Bermudez



Staff writer, Brian Gerson, sits down with undefeated Boston prospect, Manny Bermudez. Bermudez talks about his recent signing to the UFC, his upcoming opponent at UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Emmett, and more. 

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