After a two year layoff, Shanna Young returns to action this weekend at Invicta FC 31: Jandiroba vs. Morandin. The 4-0 bantamweight last fought in King Of The Cage, where she beat Pam Sorenson.
Young, who did karate from ages eight to 18 and then took a wrestling scholarship at King University in Bristol, TN, started her pro MMA career in 2015. After three relatively comfortable victories, Young took a hard-fought split decision over Sorenson. Young revealed to Bloody Elbow that she went into that 2016 fight with an injury and a lot of emotion.
“I don’t really remember a lot about the fight,” said Young. “All my thoughts around me during that fight were that I was nervous and scared. It was just a rough time for me in general.”
Not long after getting the win over Sorenson (who has wins over UFC flyweight champion Nicco Montano, as well as Jessice-Rose Clark and Jan Finney), Young received devastating news. She’d suffered a torn labrum in her hip.
After surgery Young was told to avoid training for six weeks. Two weeks after being medically cleared, she tore the same labrum. This required a second surgery. After the procedure Young was advised to take a year off. That year expired in April.
“It’s been very long,” sighed Young, referring to her recovery. The comment came with a slight laugh that didn’t quite hide the pain of the last two years.
When asked what skills she’s improved since her last contest, Young paused. “I don’t even know who I used to be back then,” she said, eventually. “That’s one of the things that has been difficult. I feel like there’s a lot of good stuff that I did before, and it feels like I’ve forgotten how to do, since I came back, but at the same time I’m learning a totally new skill set. I think, all around, I’m going to be a completely different fighter when I come back.”
Young said that part of becoming a new and different fighter is shedding her old reputation as a wrestler.
“At our gym, we really focus on being an MMA gym,” she said, referring to Knoxville MMA Academy where she trains alongside UFC light heavyweight Ovince Saint Preux. “Whereas a lot of places are still training with different classes, you have a class for wrestling, a class for kickboxing, a class for jiu jitsu, whatever, we really focus on just combining everything. We are an MMA gym and we train for the sport of MMA.”
Young’s first MMA opponent, since her injury, was scheduled to be former Invicta bantamweight title challenger Raquel Pa’aluhi (6-6). However, that match-up was nixed and Pa’aluhi was replaced with 22-year-old Lisa ‘The Strangler’ Spangler (2-0).
The opponent switch hasn’t fazed Young. “It is what it is,” she said. “Whoever they put in front of me, I’m just excited to have a fight. I had a fight scheduled a little while back and the girl showed up for weigh ins, came to the mock weigh ins and everything, and then the next day was nowhere to be found. So I’ve learned not to get too excited about a particular opponent.”
Young added that she hadn’t researched Pa’aluhi very much before the switch and she’s not planning on looking too hard into Spangler, either.
“I’m just focusing on me. I used to really study my opponent and do all the game-planning, but — in lieu of recent events — I’ve really just gotten into a habit of not getting excited about a specific opponent. Anything can happen at any given moment. The opponent could change on the last day and in the end that shouldn’t matter. I just need to go out and show I’m a skilled fighter regardless of who I’m fighting.”
Though she’s not taken a deep dive into Spangler’s fighting style and history, Young said she’s seen enough to expect an exciting fight come Saturday night. “The crowd should be on their feet,” she said.
When asked for a prediction on how the fight might end, Young was straight to the point. “I’m going to get my hand raised.”
Invicta FC 31 is live on UFC Fight Pass on September 1st. The card, which is headlined by a strawweight title fight between champion Virna Jandiroba and challenger Janaisa Morandin, begins at 8PM ET.