2015 IMMAF Gold Medalist Minna “Brutsku” Grusander sits down with WMMA Rankings.
The path to MMA was a necessary one for Grusander. Competing as a mixed martial artist meant becoming what she admired.
“I have admired martial artists in general for their dedication for the sport and disciplined lifestyle for a long time. Before I entered the sport I had followed some Finnish MMA but didn’t really know the sport that much. We have a great punch of Finnish MMA pioneers, like Sauli Heilimö, Ykä Leino and Tom Niinimäki, and newer stars, like UCF’s Teemu Packalen and M1’s Juho Valamaa, here at Finnfighters’ Gym, so I’ve gotten to train in my favorite’s guiding and alongside with them since the day one. So, there’s not just the admiration for and motivation from your idols, but the everyday example, the overall respect towards them and some footsteps to follow.”
“I’ve always admired for example boxers for their dedication towards the athlete lifestyle in its entirety. Back in 2012 I tried MMA just to find some nice hobby to have and to stay fit on the side. After having our second child in 2013 I got more into the training and found myself pretty soon totally in love with the sport of mixed martial arts and the dedicated lifestyle of an athlete.”
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) was just the opportunity “Brutsku” was looking for to test her skills on the world stage.
“I was 5-2 as an ammy before entering the IMMAF world championships and had been competing a year when I won Finnish Nationals in April 2015 and got picked to represent Finland in the IMMAF Worlds.”
Competing as a small strawweight the Finish prospect would have to win gold at 115-pounds as IMMAF did not promote atomweight bouts in 2015.
“Strawweight was the lowest weight class at that time, and it was also an obvious division for me. I got to fight close to my natural walk around weight and didn’t have to do actually any weight cutting.”
Winning an IMMAF gold medal would not be easy as fighters would have to compete three times in four days to earn the title of world champion. Grusander thrived in the tournament format.
“It suited well for me. I think I had the right mindset for a tournament. When I was entering a bout, that was the one I had to win at that point of course, but right after winning the first fights I had my mind set to the next ones to come.”
With quality amateur events a hit and miss for the most part many top-level amateurs have turned their attention to IMMAF, believing it is the perfect next step to the pro ranks. The organization hosts six women’s divisions, promoting bouts and crowning champions from atomweight to lightweight. For Grusander, the IMMAF experience played an important role in her development as a fighter.
“I value high the IMMAF tournaments! You’ll face the ones you have in the bracket to face, and there’s no chance to train to beat just the one opponent in his/her weaknesses, but to be the best MMA fighter at each fight. You are able to play with your own skills and adjust your own game plan by every bout or even round.”
When Grusander competed under the IMMAF banner they did not promote the 105-pound division, which forced her to fight up a weight-class. Last week the organization announced that it would be adding atomweight to all future events. This is welcome news to fighters like Grusander.
“I think it’s great news! I’m small but still far from the smallest women and female martial artists out there, so I warmly welcome the atomweight division for IMMAF. I’m sure there will be easily enough girls for the atomweight brackets at IMMAF tournaments and it’s nice for those tiny ones to have their own division – a 100-105 pounder to fight with each other instead of among 115’s is a huge difference! Actually, I’m training with a few tiny amateurs – a Swede grappling specialist Bezan Mahmudi and Jenna Horto from GB Gym in Helsinki – so I know for sure that there is the talent to fill IMMAF’s atomweight division.”
Grusander did not change much in her preparation for pro competition.
“For myself personally there wasn’t any big differences. My athlete lifestyle stayed pretty much the same from the last months as an ammy getting ready to Finnish Nationals and IMMAF Worlds and when starting to compete as a pro.”
After compiling a 5-1 professional record, with her only setback coming to former Pancrase champion and UFC strawweight contender Syuri Kondo, Grusander’s team felt she was ready for Invicta FC.
“First I got in touch with Tim Leidecker, who we got to know better last year and I found a perfect manager for me in him. Tim knew I had my eye on Invicta and that I should be introduced to them.
The first experience with Invicta was pretty much how I pictured it. A very professional organization and everyone’s extremely friendly! I had a warm welcome. I’m proud to have the chance to fight for Invicta and I’m anxiously waiting to see where we will go from here.”
With the future of Ayaka Hamasaki uncertain, Jinh Yu Frey coming off of a loss to Seo Hee Ham and other situations that have made the Invicta FC title picture unclear, “Brutsku” is willing to do what it takes to earn her shot at the vacant belt. Part of her plan, have a fairly active 2018.
“I’d challenge any fellow atomweight for the belt in a heartbeat, but if Invicta wants to build up the upcoming title fight by me dropping the challengers in non-title bouts from event to event, that’s just as fine with me.” She continued “Now that I had the first one in March, let’s say…three. Next one later in the Sumner and then closer to the end of the year might be a nice pace. I don’t really have any names in my mind. My goal is to be the best, my job is to win them All.”
There have been a lot of quality fighters coming out of Finland as of late, especially on the women’s scene. According to Grusander WMMA has not experienced pushback from the Finish fans and media like they have in other parts of the world.
“In a small country of Finland, we make the effort to share the knowledge and get the best out of each other. Actually, Finnish MMA goes back for 20 years already, and when talking about WMMA, Finland is one of the leading countries in equality in general, there hasn’t been that much of any stupid barriers to overcome.” Said Grusander “One might think that there’s not too many of us, but quality over quantity. When we have fighters like Katja Kankaanpää, the former Invicta strawweight champion; Tina Hanninen, the first strawweight ever to step into the UFC octagon and a Strikeforce vet Maiju Suotamaa, just to name a few, I think we make it pretty easy for the fans to get and stay interested when delivering some world class MMA by female fighters!”
Minna “Brutsku” Grusander would like to thank all who have continued to support her.
“There would be no Brutsku without all the support around me. I feel extremely proud having had Trans Nysse & Logistics with me all the way since the IMMAF Worlds til these days and still towards the future. And to hear from the fans – either getting the good feedback or even criticism – means a lot to me! I love to hear different views about my MMA and it’s not too rare for me to catch a point with them that I otherwise might not have even thought!”