On Saturday, Nov. 15 in the co-main event of Cage Warriors 74 history will be made as Swedish/Iranina mixed martial artists Pannie Kianzad will face off against last minute injury replacement Eeva Siiskonen for the chance to be crowned the inaugural CWFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion at London’s Copper Box Arena.
After what would appear to be a rapid rise up the European bantamweight ranks, some onlookers may think the Iran born, Helsingborg raised Pannie “Banzai” Kianzad was something of a mixed martial arts enigma, achieving a feat that very few, if any, have achieved before her, going from relatively unknown fighter with minimal experience to world championship contender in just over 2-years as a professional. But, if you delve deeper you will find a person who has been knee deep in combat sports since her early teens.
“Banzai” took up boxing as a junior in a quest to keep fit after growing tired of her previous sport of choice swimming. After growing tired of the sweet science, and ending her career with a respectable boxing record of 15-15, she would soon turn her attention to mixed martial arts.
“I took up boxing in 2005 to keep in shape as I used to swim before, but wanted to try something new, plus I needed a way to keep fit. I boxed from when I was aged 13 until I was 18-years-old, but after about 30 fights decided to quit just before I graduated from school as boxing didn’t make me happy anymore, and soon after I took up MMA.
“When I decided to take up MMA I found a place to train not to far from my hometown of Helsingborg (Sweden), and I focused completely on just grappling while I was there, no stand-up. I began training in mixed martial arts just for fun, I honestly had no intention of competing in MMA, I just wanted to grapple at first but my new found love of grappling continued to grow and my coaches signed me up for an inter-club competition. Then I decided I would give mixed martial arts a try and there has been no turning back for me.”
While training at Rumble Sports with some Scandinavia’s top trainers and fighters such as head coach Tue Trnka and CWFC welterweight champion Nicolas Dalby to name a few, it’s the quality training, sparring, and the daily challenges MMA posed that has enabled the 22-year-old to scale the European bantamweight ranks, leaving Kianzad in no doubt that she will be ready for her opponent come Saturday, November 15th.
“My training camps are always awful (laughs) but I always remind myself that if I feel this awful during my training camps, then the fights are the easy part. All of my camps are hard but I always enter the cage 100-percent ready because I know I have been training with some really good people who kick my arse everyday to help me prepare to kick my opponents arse.
“Nothing is easy in MMA, especially for a woman who trains mostly with men, but training with males has defiantly given me more confidence when it comes to my technical ability, and often gives me an advantage in the strength department when I compete against other women.“
Since her professional debut in April 2012, Kianzad has quickly ascended to the top of the European bantamweight ranks, and this rapid rise has not gone unnoticed by the fighter herself, as well as Cage Warriors Fighting Championship. It was the European MMA powerhouse who would snap up Kianzad after the promotion made the commitment to breathe life back into women’s MMA in the region.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind as there is a big difference between the amateurs and the professional fight scene. In the pros, because there are still so few women mixed martial artists, there is no hiding place as there is so few choices when it comes to being matched with other fighters that are of the same level, ability wise as you.
“Part of the reason I think I have climbed the ranks in such a short space of time is because from the beginning of my career the level of competition I have faced have gotten better and better which has resulted in me getting a title shot.“
Before being granted a title shot Kianzad would make her CWFC debut against Gracie Barra Netherlands fighter Megan van Houtum at Cage Warriors 71, an event which was originally scheduled to take place in Stockholm, Sweden before the card was moved to Jordan after a number of fights including her bout with Alexandra Buch was not ratified by the Swedish MMA Federation, robbing her and a number of other Swedish fighters of the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of home fans.
“It was disappointing at first as I felt I was more than qualified as an undefeated fighter to face my scheduled opponent who was 9-3, because of the quality of opponents I have faced. But, I was more disappointed for the guys on the undercard who had prepared themselves but didn’t get to compete when the card was moved to Jordan. I felt their decision to stop so many fights was ridiculous as most these guys (the SMMAF) have little or no experience of competing themselves so how can they judge who can and cannot compete.
“I think potentially they set Swedish MMA back by stopping a big show coming to Sweden, which is a shame as it would have been a good chance for our fighters to showcase their talent. Lucky for me the change of destination didn’t have a massive impact on me, and I won my fight in Jordan by 3rd Round TKO.”
It was that win at the King Hussein Boxing Arena in Jordan that earned her a chance to be crowned the inaugural CWFC women’s bantamweight champion, a shot that came as a bit of a surprise to Kianzad.
“I actually found I was fighting for the title the night of my last fight in Jordan at the Cage Warriors after party. When I was asked to fight in London for the title I was so excited, I just wanted to scream. I later found out I would be sharing the bill with my Rumble Sports teammates Nicolas Dalby who is defending his title on the same night, as well as Anne (Elmose) who is making her pro debut.
“It’s been good sharing a camp with Nicolas and Anne as we can relate to each other when we are, for example, having a bad day or training has not gone so well. When I have days like that I can look across the gym and see Nicolas and Anne training and know that they are going through the same type of thing that I am. It’s like having strength in numbers, it’s not just one of us going through it, we all are.
“It will be great if everything goes to plan and I win the title, but I feel you have to defend the title a few times to really feel like a champion, but in saying that it will be amazing to win the title. It will be a highlight of my career in combat sports, that after 9-years of competing in combat sports I win my first world title.”