Before Cris Cyborg, Amanda Nunes and Michelle Waterson, it was Kaitlin Young stealing the show at Invicta FC 1: Coenen vs Ruyssen.
After a four-year change of scenery, Young is back at Invicta 32: Spencer vs Sorenson tonight, intent on changing the scenery of the featherweight division.
Young’s introduction to Invicta FC was with a classic bout against Leslie Smith at Invicta 1: Coenen vs Ruyssen that earned them both Fight of the Night honors.
Before the fight had ended, commentators were already pushing for a rematch for Invicta FC 2.
“It’s incredible to see how far it has come,” Young said. “I remember the first show like it was yesterday. You wondered how long it would stick around because you see so many promotions have gone under and I had kind of gotten so used to disappointments, so we just didn’t know.”
Invicta proved they belonged on the MMA scene with the announcement of Invicta 2 only three months after Young and Smith stole the show.
While the wish for a rematch Young vs Smith wasn’t immediately granted, it was clear that Young had made herself a staple in the promotion, fighting exclusively for Invicta FC for the next two years.
While most fighters from Invicta were continuing to represent the all-female promotion, moving to others or retire, the 29-year-old Young seemed to just walk away altogether.
“I actually didn’t stop fighting,” Young corrects. “I just quit MMA. I hit a pretty bad losing streak and I needed a change, so I started to just do Muay Thai.”
The next four years, Young competed in Thailand, and after pulling in a 12-1 record in Muay Thai and K-1, Young was ready to step away from the art of eight limbs and step back into the world of mixed martial arts.
“I really think international experience is important for development,” Young said. “There’s still a couple fights I wished I had but I fought in Thailand and I had almost as many fights as I had had prior to that.”
Young came back to the United States rejuvenated and ready to test her hand on The Ultimate Fighter.
“They were having TUF tryouts and I didn’t even get an interview, which I was annoyed by, so I emailed a promoter and set up a fight,” Young said.
Her first fight in four years was the first unanimous decision victory of her career, countering her strategy in her first run in mixed martial arts.
“I think it’s in my nature to come out of the gate hot,” Young said. “It’s something that I’ve really worked on. In Muay Thai, fights are five rounds, so now I feel less pressure to go out and try to do something. If it happens in the first round, great.”
Although Young feels more confident in her endurance, her patience and improved endurance will not come with a sacrifice of aggression.
Young’s last appearance at Invicta was at Invicta FC 9: Honchak vs Hashi, and during her four-year sabbatical, Invicta has charged forward, and her return at Invicta 32: Spencer vs Sorenson comes with a sense of maturity as a fighter but also joy as a fan of the sport.
“It seems like there are more fighters now,” Young noticed. “More featherweights it seems anyway. They’ve done a good job pushing that and now we’re seeing women from other sports flocking in. It’s great.”
With only hours until Young’s return, she doesn’t feel nerves or anxiety. Her camp with Kronphet Phetrachapat and Levi Cope has left the 33-year-old feeling mature, calm and relaxed for her return against Sarah Patterson.
Patterson’s 16-year MMA career has caught the attention of Young, but Young’s growth as a fighter over the last four years has taught her to separate the fighter from the fight, which has left her with a simple strategy.
“I really try not to get an emotional attachment to it,” Young said. “I’m going to pressure her and take what’s exposed.”
Don’t miss the original Invicta show-stopper’s return at Invicta FC 32: Spencer vs Sorenson live on Friday, Nov 16 at 8pm ET, only on UFC FIGHT PASS.