NJ’s Katlyn Chookagian to Make History at UFC 205
Imagine getting the phone call you had been dreaming of. You are going to step in the UFC octagon at UFC 205, the historical first professional mixed martial arts card at World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden on November 12.
Then you are told you have been bumped off due to the addition of two more featured bouts, only to find out forty minutes later, you are back on again.
That was the roller coaster UFC Women’s Bantamweight Katlyn Chookagian encountered after making her UFC debut in July against Lauren Murphy at UFC Fight Night 91.
“They called back forty minutes later like ‘Don’t kill us but we’re keeping you on the card’, I was ‘Are you kidding me! Do you know how emotional girls are?”, Chookagian reflected on the news laughing.
Not only is Chookagian, commonly known as Blonde Fighter, on the inaugural card, she is making more history that night than any other female in the sport today can add to their resume. As the first bout on the UFC Early Fight Pass Prelims against Liz Carmouche, she will kick off the card as the first MMA fight ever at MSG. Also, the first female fight and if we really want to narrow it down, the first to have their entrance music play through the speakers for their walk out.
“With this being such a crazy card I wanted to be first one and get it over with then watch everyone else compete,” explained Chookagian. “Worry about myself but then be able to relax and watch everyone else. Being the first one is just awesome, I’m just ready and excited for it to come.”
“Everyone else” referring in particular to her teammates former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who is headlining the Fox Sports 1 prelims against Jeremy Stephens and current Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez, who is defending his title against UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor. “I’ll definitely be excited to watch them with a drink in my hand”.
Before entering the professional MMA scene in 2013, Chookagian had numerous amateur boxing and kickboxing fights, including winning the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves championship at just 16 years old. It wasn’t until she started college that she devoted a year to training just jiu-jitsu, which now at age of 27, she has earned her a brown belt under Renzo Gracie.
One of the first attributes you notice once Chookagian and her opponents touch gloves is her confidence on her feet. Her footwork is unlike anything you see in women’s MMA today, only resembling closest to former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, and boxing champion, Holly Holm.
“I’ve been really lucky this camp to have great sparring partners. I have one girl who is a really, really good kickboxer and she’s on the Argentinian wrestling team, so I got lucky that she was in New Jersey the last couple weeks,” explains Chookagian. “I’ve been sparring [undefeated Women’s Boxing champion] Heather Hardy in boxing and in wrestling I’ve been working with a lot of high school state champions, so this camp I’ve been very, very lucky. No matter what aspect of the fight, I’m training with the best there is.”
“The girls I spar with have better boxing than any girl in MMA right now, so there’s nothing as far as boxing that I think I’m going to see in a MMA fight that I don’t see on a weekly basis,” she adds confidently. “I think that gives me that competitive edge. To work with girls who are world champions in their sports gives me more confidence going into the fight.”
As fight camp comes to a close and media obligations kick off for UFC 205, most fighters find themselves in foreign cities, fending for themselves to adapt to their new surroundings for the week. Luckily for Chookagian, the venue for Saturday night’s card is literally a block away from a familiar spot, the Renzo Gracie Academy, where she trains alongside Edgar and Alvarez.
Facing a vet in the sport like Liz Charmouche, who is known famously for welcoming former champion Ronda Rousey to the UFC octagon in 2013, Chookagian feels she has the tools to finish the fight. “I see myself winning at the end of the fight. Wherever the fight is, I know I’ll be dominant, whether it’s standing the whole time or against the cage or on the mat I know that I’m the more dominant fighter.”
Should the fight result in favor of Chookagian, moving up is the only agenda on her mind. “I’ve been lucky in these last two fights to have someone ranked above me, I know it’s not always like that for everyone, so I’m happy about that. After this fight, I would want someone ranked above me just so I can work my way up,” she explains. “Anyone who is ranked above me is who I want to fight.”
You can catch Katlyn enter the UFC octagon for the second time in her professional career this Saturday at 6:30pm streaming only on UFC Fight Pass.
Stay tuned to @DoubleGSports for more UFC 205 coverage all week long.