Lina Länsberg has an old van from ’81, and she’s already eyeing the celebratory vaction she’ll be taking at this Saturday’s bout at UFC Stockholm.
Whatever the outcome, the vacation will be a well-earned one. The fight will be her first in Sweden under the UFC banner, and rarely has a mixed martial artist that so proudly represents their native land had to wait so long to fight there.
There was a close call the last time the UFC was in town in 2017. But fresh off a fight just weeks earlier, the timing was just not meant to be (despite Länsberg’s ardent campaign on social media showing how fast she was healing).
But the timing is perfect now, and coming off an intense camp, Länsberg is ready to do her country proud. It won’t be an easy night; veteran Tonya Evinger will be standing across from her looking to spoil the homecoming. But speaking with Länsberg reveals a level of confidence, ease and poise that bely the challenge ahead. We caught up with her just a couple days from showtime.
UFC: What’s it like not only to finally have a UFC fight at home, but to also be representing your entire country when you walk out?
Lina Länsberg: It’s a dream come true. It is, really. Last time the UFC was in Sweden, I wasn’t medically cleared to fight.
It’s really, really nice. It’s so many fans, and I got so much love from everybody, you know? And I have my friends and family here watching me. It’s amazing.
UFC: Is it easier or harder to go through fight week this close to home?
LL: For me, it’s nice. I think it depends on how you handle it, you know? Some people feel a lot of pressure when fighting at home. But for me I feel more safe, you know? Not alone, losing weight. I think it’s really nice.
UFC: You mentioned you’ll have friends and family here. Will this be the first time any of them get to see you fight in person?
LL: It’s the first time live for some of my friends. My dad will be here, it’s the second time for him. He saw me, like, 15 years ago in one of those small kinds of fights where you can buy cinnamon buns and coffee; typical Swedish (laughs). My mom has been. She saw the UFC fight in London. She’s been with me through my Muay Thai boxing career as well.
UFC: Do your parents enjoy watching their daughter fight?
LL: Actually when my dad watched my fight against Cyborg, my sister told me about it. Suddenly he just started crying, because suddenly he just realized how big it was. You know, I think he tried to see it as something quite small, not too much, you know? And then suddenly he just realizes it’s a little bit too big for him.
But my mom, she enjoys it. Of course she didn’t want me to get hurt, but she accepts it. When somebody asks her, she usually says “When you see Lina walking to the cage, you see that she’s doing the right thing. She loves to be there.”
UFC: Your opponent is still searching for her first UFC win. Does that make her more dangerous in some respects?
LL: That’s hard to say. It could be that way. It could also be that she’s more nervous, feeling more pressure. So it depends, from person to person, how you deal with things like that.
UFC: What have you been doing this camp to get ready for her?
LL: I’ve been working on every aspect of the game. Definitely everything. She’s a really tough opponent. She’s been in this sport for so, so long. So I’ve been working all around. But I think this will be a really good fight. I do enjoy tough opponents, when they come forward and really want a war.
UFC: From the looks of your social media, it looks like you’ve been going really hard in camp.
LL: Yeah (laughs). I always train hard, especially in camps. We’ve been traveling around a little bit more, we’ve found more women to train with; really good, strong women.
But this camp has been the best, by far. Really. I feel like I’ve developed my skills a lot since last time, and hopefully it will show on Saturday.
UFC: You had a great quote on your Facebook page that said: “I love my job! It’s not always fun, definitely not easy and it’s a lot of pressure. But I have so many fantastic memories and I’ll have really good stories...” What’s one of those stories you’ll always remember?
LL: You know, sometimes I discuss things like this with friends, the whole thing with pressuring yourself to the max, to try to do something so hard, and giving it everything you’ve got. I think that’s what leads to all those memories. And of course traveling around the world, meeting so many people…
But you know, how many people can actually tell stories about going into an Octagon in front of 20,000 people and fight somebody? There’s not too many! And that’s amazing. You really have to realize that and remember that. It’s something not too common, and it takes a special kind of person to do that, and if takes something like that to give me what I need.