Anna ‘Panda’ Elmose returns to the Octagon this weekend, versus TUF finalist Amanda Bobby Cooper, at UFC Belfast. In Northern Ireland, Elmose will be making her debut as a strawweight. Her last UFC appearance (which was also her debut) was a bantamweight clash with Germaine de Randamie at UFC Fight Night 87 in Rotterdam.
Elmose (3-1), a native of Denmark, will be hoping to notch her first UFC victory this Saturday. Standing in her way is the American Cooper (1-2), who will also be hoping to have her hand raised for the first time in the UFC.
Even though little is known of Cooper, who has just one professional win to her name, Elmose refused to write off her opponent.
“She has a boxing background, I think she’s very well-rounded, and I know that she’s a purple belt in jiu jitsu,” Elmose told Bloody Elbow before adding that she believed Cooper also had a “very strong mentality.”
Asked about Cooper’s weaknesses, Elmose was at a loss. “I don’t know what her weaknesses are, because I see that she’s developing,” said Elmose. “I don’t want to be stubborn about something I’ve seen in one of her recent fights, because she might have adjusted that and it’s not a problem anymore, so I just want to go into this fight believing I’m meeting the best version of Amanda Bobby Cooper there has ever been.”
Elmose, who trains at Copenhagen’s Rumblesports gym, did reveal what she felt her own strengths were in a match-up with Cooper. “I have knockout power,” stated Elmose. “And I know that even though I am down two weight classes to meet her, I still have that knockout power. The clean knockout power. And I haven’t seen her be able to throw those kinds of punches.”
Cooper spoke with Bloody Elbow’s Eddie Mercado in October. In that interview Cooper outlined what she thought were the flaws in Elmose’s game:
I don't feel like she's great in any area. She's not a crazy good striker, she's not a crazy good grappler, crazy good wrestler. Pretty good at everything, so it's not like I need to gameplan specifically like not to get taken down or to get the takedown. - Amanda Cooper
Elmose shrugged off the comments, and questioned their authenticity. “It’s a good thing for me, if she really believes what she’s saying, which I don’t think she does.”
“I know what I am capable of,” added Elmose. “And if she believes that I’m not great at anything, then well it’s a win-win for me and a lose-lose for her, because if she loses to somebody she expects to be lousier than her, then that really sucks. And if she expects me to be a bad fighter and she figures out that I’m not, she’s gonna be surprised.”
In Cooper’s interview with Mercado the Michigan-based fighter also gave a bold prediction for how her fight with Elmose would end:
I think I'm going to finish her with strikes in the second round. That's what I've been visualizing. She comes out pretty hard in the first round. She throws a ton of shots and tries to clinch up right away but it tires her out in every single fight. And she's cutting down to 115 so it should be even worse for her. I think the second round, she'll be exhausted and I'll start finding my distance and my range and start setting up shots a lot more. - Amanda Cooper
Elmose’s initial response to this was short, “Whatever.”
“Again, she’s welcome to think that,” added Elmose. “Like a lot of other fighters, I believe that it’s stupid to make predictions about a fight. I prepare myself for a long fight, a long tough back-and-forth fight. Three rounds, that’s what I’m preparing for, because I’m not going to chase a knockout or submission.”
Elmose’s three pro victories have all come via KO/TKO. But in Rotterdam, she was on the wrong side of a knockout, after Germaine de Randamie out-muscled the 5’3” Elmose on route to a fight-ending knee to the body.
When asked what she took away from that painful experience, Elmose’s answer was surprising. “That I have big balls,” laughed the Scandinavian.
“I was smaller and less experienced [and I was still] able to walk into the Octagon against the best striker of all time in the division (she’s several times Muay Thai champion!). I had no fear in my mind at all, I wasn’t scared, I was ready. So I’ve learned that if I believe in myself: I’m not scared of anything.”
Elmose called the loss to de Randamie “the best thing that could happen”, because it was that loss that proved to her - once and for all - that she should not have been competing in the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division.
“I was very comfortable being a little chubby bantamweight,” said Elmose. “But I knew if I want to be number one I can not fight at bantamweight. I can be good at bantamweight, but I can never be number one and I do this to be number one. I do this to get a belt, eventually. I want the chance to fight for a title and I’m never gonna do it at bantamweight. After my fight against Gemraine I realized I don’t belong there, so that motivated me to make the change to strawweight.”
From bantam to straw. See the difference? #beforeafter #weightloss @martin_kreutzer helps me all the way ( )UFC on...Posted by Anna "Panda" Elmose on Sunday, October 23, 2016
Elmose said she didn’t cut any weight to make 135lbs versus de Randamie, despite having a full meal on the flight before the fight. The process to get down to 115lbs was less challenging than expected, and Elmose is delighted with the results.
“I love it,” said Elmose, about training at a lighter weight. “I absolutely love it, I should have done this a long time ago. I’m in the shape of my life and I feel really good.”
Much of Elmose’s career (in MMA and kickboxing) has involved competing against opponents much taller and with much longer reach than her. In Cooper, Elmose has an opponent whose height and reach are virtually identical to hers.
“It’s gonna be fun,” said Elmose of the equal-sized match-up. “But, I’m not gonna assume that she’s small or weak in anyway. I’m gonna assume that she’s as big, brutal and strong as everyone else I faced, so I won’t be surprised.”
“I’ve shown that I’m capable of doing good against people who are a lot taller than me. Amanda is not. So it’s gonna be exciting. We’re both going in there to win it and we’re both gonna be able to give the audience a great show, it’s gonna be a fight that’s exciting and fun to watch.”
You can watch Anna Elmose’s strawweight debut at UFC Belfast on Fight Pass beginning at 12:15pm ET on November 19th.