If you haven’t yet witnessed it on a television broadcast, one of the most interesting features of the UFC safe zone on Fight Island is a giant racetrack that literally runs through the hotel hosting the athletes.
“Yeah, it feels surreal,” acknowledges Pannie Kianzad as the roar of the passing engines regularly interrupt her voice. “But ever since they said they would do Fight Island, I know many people did not think they would do it. But I had my hopes up.”
After the uncertainty of getting her original UFC 250 bout postponed, “Banzai” can’t imagine a better resolution.
“I was scheduled to fight Bethe Correia in May. I’m just happy I’ve got the same opponent. It changes everything when you change the opponent, but that’s the opponent I wanted, so I’m really happy that I kept her.”
She stayed ready, cautiously optimistic the call would indeed come.
“I still trained twice a day, but not as hard, of course. So when the fight in May got postponed and we didn’t really know the date, I took two weeks—not off—but I trained really easy and I still kept my focus on fighting this summer. But I basically train all year round, so there’s not much of a difference between a camp and an offseason.”
After stumbling out of the gates in her short-notice UFC debut against Julia Avila, Kianzad rebounded with a full camp and put on a veritable boxing clinic against Jessica-Rose Clark last year at UFC Moscow. Feeling the wind at her back, it’s a momentum she’s keen to keep going.
After fifteen years in the game that include notable runs in Cage Warriors, Invicta and The Ultimate Fighter, Kianzad was able to make a dream come true by starting to train full-time two years ago. But when the world suddenly found itself in the grips of a pandemic, she knew she couldn’t sit on the sidelines. She returned to her old calling as a nursing assistant back home in Sweden to help those in need.
“I’m really privileged to be a full-time fighter after training for fifteen years. But basically, during my whole career, I’ve been working full-time as an assistant nurse, and I did not feel like stopping just because.”
“When I found out my fight was postponed, I went in and helped,” she explains. “I knew that they required a lot of help during this pandemic, especially the night workers. It’s a tough job. It’s a tough job during the day, but it’s even worse at night. It can be pretty mentally frustrating, but I knew if I was doing it full-time, I would want someone to help me. So I did my fight training, but I went in a few weeks and worked. I got to work with a lot of cases that were infected or suspected to be infected with the coronavirus. But the only thing I was kind of nervous about was not to get infected; I was nervous about me bringing something to patients. I just knew that I wanted to do my part.”
It's not the last time she’ll do her part, either.
“After I’m done fighting, I will pursue my medical degree in nursing full-time, so this brings me a lot of experience. I know how many people need it. I’m a full-time fighter. I’ve got a lot of spare time.”
But for now, she’s got Correia in her sights, and the inspiration from compatriots like Fight Island sensation Khamzat Chimaev to make a quick turnaround in these turbulent times.
“Definitely. I’m right there with the other Swedes like Khamzat. If I feel okay, I want to fight right away. They can book me anytime. Whether it’s here on Fight Island or if it’s in the States, I’m the one to call. I’m always ready. I will always make weight. I have no time to waste. I’ve waited so much for this opportunity to be in the UFC. If somebody trusts me to give me a UFC contract, I will fight until the end. As soon as I’m good to go again…let’s go.”
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