Lindsey VanZandt is one of the atomweight division’s brightest prospects.
In this Fighter Feature, atomweight prospect Lindsey “Damsel” Vanzandt speaks to WMMA Rankings’ Idrees to talk about her experience on the amateur scene, the future of the atomweight division and much more.
Like many fighters before her VanZandt was a fan long before she became one of the top prospects on the women’s scene.
“I was a huge fan growing up. I started watching the UFC when I was nine. I had copies of UFC 1-98. My favorite fighter growing up was GSP. I also liked Randy Couture and Frankie Edgar and I have always been a fan of Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Rose Namajunas and Cat Zingano. I love watching all fights really.”
There are far more female athletes turning to MMA to live out their competitive aspirations. For VanZandt, it was all aboutchallenging herself.
“I love sports and competition. I also did a lot of different sports growing up and always wanted to be a professional athlete. MMA is an amazing sport and I fell in love with it because you can always learn something new and get better. It is also a sport where you should never plateau or get bored. It is the most interesting sport out there in my opinion. Also, it is an individual sport. It is you against your opponent, so there is no excuse in there and I love that.”
VanZandt started training at a time when the sport did not enjoy the fame and exposure as it does today.
“When I first started BJJ nobody knew what it was and then the UFC blew up. Now, when people ask what I do they are surprised because I am this small little girl but they usually think it is pretty cool. I still get some people who don’t know what MMA is but it has definitely grown into a popular sport. Also, there are more women fighting these days. It is so cool to see.”
More and more fighters are spending time on the amateur scene to gain experience and sharpen their tools before turning pro. 10 years ago most fighters did not have an amateur career to fall back on. “Damsel” feels that it is one of the most important steps you can take as an MMA fighter.
“I think it is very important. Taking an amateur fight helps people figure out if fighting is for them, without the pro rules. This way there are rules like no ground-and-pound, no elbows, no knees to the face and in most states you have to wear shin guards. Also, it helps people who want to fight gain experience. I think the most important thing is losing as an amateur. It changes and helps you grow as a person and fighter. I’ve learned so much in my amateur career that I know exactly what my strengths and weaknesses are and what I have to work on to be a dominant pro fighter.”
Many women find it hard to stay active, with many fights falling through for whatever reason. VanZandt found this out early on. While she made her name as an atomweight the Precision MMA standout had to fight up a weight-class just to stay active.
“I took fights at strawweight as an ammy because I wanted the experience and it was hard to find fights. Also, it is a big weight difference for me to jump to strawweight. Those girls walk around a lot heavier.”
After experiencing mixed results on the amateur circuit and dropping her last amateur bout at strawweight VanZandt decided to turn pro and compete in her natural division, the 105-pound weight-class. She hasn’t looked back, stopping her first two opponents as a professional.
“It felt great! I feel like I am finally showing the great fighter I am. I know I have a lot of potential and as I grow in my career I am hoping to keep improving and showing my skills.”
According to the “Damsel” her toughest fight thus far has been former King of the Cage title challenger, Bi Nguyen.
“My toughest opponent so far has been Bi Nguyen, which was my last fight. She was very well-known and has a big following so I was excited to fight her. I won the decision. It was an interesting fight because I broke my hand in the beginning of the first round which threw me off a bit so I just did what I could to win.” Explained VanZandt “I came close to finishing it on the ground a few times, but it was hard with my hand and she had good defense. I just wish I could have shown more of my standup skills because everyone likes it when chicks stand and bang and I felt like I could have gotten the best of her standing as well.”
The UFC has added two new divisions for female competitors over the last year, with atomweight fighters being on the outside looking in. VanZandt is just one of many who hopes to see her division under the bright lights of the octagon in the near future.
“I think it is great that they have added more divisions for women. I believe they are looking for a star like Ronda Rousey to promote the division or maybe they are trying to figure out how they are going to start it with a TUF season. Who knows, but I hope they get on board soon. It would be perfect timing for me.”
Although it feels like the right time for atomweight, don’t expect to see the “Damsel” in the UFC until things change.
“I guess I would have to say no because of sponsorships, but it would be awesome and is still a dream of mine to fight for them because they still have the biggest stage. My dream is to be the best atomweight in the world so whoever and wherever I have to fight to achieve that I will. I mean the money is nice and it would eventually pay my bills but I am not doing it for the money. It is nice to get paid doing what you love though.”
VanZant does not have her sights set on one promotion, rather she is eying a specific goal.
“Hopefully the UFC will welcome the 105-pound division soon, but I am happy fighting for any promotion really. King of the Cage is great and I wouldn’t mind traveling and fighting for RIZIN, DEEP Jewels, One FC or Invicta FC. I wouldn’t even mind fighting for Glory and doing a kickboxing fight. I think it would be fun. I’m very open to all possibilities and opportunities.”
The 24-year-old is taking her time climbing to the top.
“Once I get back in the Spring I would like to get another three to four fights in. I love to stay active but everyone is telling me not to rush it either” she continued “I can’t wait for my next fight, hopefully in May or June. I would definitely like one more fight before the title shot but I will hopefully get the title shot after that and be a dominant champion for a while”
So, what does a top prospect do to relax?
“In my downtime I hang out with my boyfriend Reggie Mack. I love watching Marvel and DC shows like The Flash, The Arrow, Jessica Jones, Daredevil and so on. I also love reading and researching nutrition.”
“Damsel” has a good team behind her and wanted to take time to give them a shout out.
“I would like to thank my team Precision MMA and my coaches and teammates that help me get ready for battle. I also want to thank the Miller brothers, Pure MMA and Carnicellas MMA for also helping me become the best martial artist I can. I also want to thank my sponsors Ashburn Chiropractic for fixing me up and Kings of Fitness for helping me get stronger.”