As a native of the 10th-happiest country in the world (according to the World Happiness Report), Sweden’s Lina Lansberg does seem to fit in well with that reputation, as she is cheery and quick with a laugh when discussing her upcoming main event fight with Cris “Cyborg” this Saturday.
But what about those elbows, the ones that have knocked out and cut opponents and helped earn her the “Elbow Queen” nickname? Certainly, these are not happy instruments of destruction. She agrees, and admits that there was some explaining to be done to some members of her inner circle.
“They had to get used to it,” she said. “But also, people that know me really well, they were like, ‘Yes, of course you’re going to do Muay Thai and MMA.’ I’m that kind of person.”
It’s why this weekend’s bout is so intriguing. Unlike some previous opponents of Cyborg, who approached the fight like lambs being led to slaughter, the 34-year-old from Malmo isn’t blinking in the spotlight. She knows that a fight’s a fight, and that as intimidating as Cyborg is, the Brazilian isn’t entering the Octagon with any extra limbs or a baseball bat.
“She is real good,” Lansberg said. “She’s good in both Muay Thai and MMA, for sure, her punching power is amazing, and she’s amazing, but she’s still human, so she can lose as well.”
Cyborg hasn’t lost in a mixed martial arts bout since her debut in 2005. When you go undefeated for over 11 years, that can intimidate. But Lansberg knows that Cyborg has lost in that time, in a Muay Thai match against Jorina Baars in 2014. Lansberg even mentioned Baars on her UFC bio form when asked her thoughts on Cyborg. So she knows what’s possible and she’s keeping that in mind.
“The sport is a mental game one hundred percent,” she said. “You can see a lot of real good fighters going out there, and if something is mentally wrong that day, everything goes wrong. So the mental game is the main part of it.”
The other part has to do with Cyborg. Will she engage in a kickboxing match with a kickboxer who has several Muay Thai titles to her name, or will she make it an MMA match? Lansberg is ready for anything.
“I don’t think about that that much,” she said. “I’m a real good wrestler as well, and it doesn’t really matter for me, so whatever happens happens.”
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A pro in MMA since 2012, Lansberg – like Cyborg – lost her pro debut and has gone unbeaten since. The difference is that Cyborg’s unbeaten run spans 17 fights, while Lansberg’s record stands at 6-1. But despite the MMA experience gap, Lansberg – who has competed at featherweight but normally fights at 135 pounds – had no hesitation in accepting the 140-pound catchweight fight with Cyborg for her UFC debut.
“It’s more motivation,” she said. “I think that the UFC would have given me a contract at 135 anyway, but I want to do big things and harder things as well, and it’s a dream come true to fight one of the best in the world to start with. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Everyone says that, but in Lansberg’s case it’s believable. She isn’t even rattled by the prospect of wearing the black hat on Saturday as the crowd backs Cyborg in a way only Brazilian fans can. In fact, she’s looking forward to it.
“You don’t want anything to be a surprise, so, of course, we’re working on handling the audience, being the underdog, and all of it,” Lansberg said. “The audience in Brazil is amazing, even if it’s more amazing for her than for me (Laughs), but it’s still action and there’s a lot of feeling, and I like that.”