This article was originally published on FIGHTLAND
Tiffany van Soest will be making her professional MMA bow on September 23rd against newcomer Kalyn Schwartz at Invicta FC 19.
"Time Bomb" will be stepping into the cage with some hype behind her. The Torrance, California, native – who owns a second degree black belt in karate – is a decorated striker in both kickboxing and Muay Thai worlds, earning the WBC international super-bantamweight Muay Thai title and the Lion Fight featherweight championship among other accolades during her fighting career.
Despite its billing, there is a little confusion as to whether this is the 27-year-old striker's professional MMA debut or not. Van Soest made her amateur MMA debut back in 2011, knocking out Kate McGray in the second round. That's for sure. However, she lost a second bout later in 2011 – submitting to experienced Chinese (professional) fighter Jin Tang's triangle choke inside the first five minutes of their fight. Some considered this a professional bout due to Tang's status, while others – including Van Soest – insist it was an amateur contest.
Cynicism aside, this is still a big deal for women's MMA and Invicta FC. Van Soest finds herself in esteemed company while making the transition from high-level Muay Thai to MMA. Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Valentina Shevchenko both successfully switched disciplines and they have impressed ever since stepping foot in the Octagon in their respective divisions. This latest addition to the WMMA fold could prove very significant.
In May, Van Soest teased that she would love to compete in MMA, but the Californian told MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani her return would be about "one or two years away." Those 12-24 months have transformed to just four and Time Bomb is ticking away ahead of her showdown against Schwartz.
Her opponent also kicks off her professional fighting career on September 23rd. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Schwartz has six amateur wins under her belt.
There are always inevitable questions raised regarding the ground game of a striker when transitioning to MMA. Van Soest recognises her potential imperfections in that regard, but she has a camp of high-level mixed martial arts to combat these shortcomings.
"Obviously the groundwork is my main priority, because it is my weakest area," Van Soest told Helwani. "But, the transition, just the really subtle changes I'm going to figure out as I go. I don't think it should be too much of a problem. I've been training MMA and helping out some of the girls in the UFC, like Carla Esparza, I've been working with Jessica Penne.
"For years, I've been sparring partners with them, I've been learning from them a little bit here and there. So I'm not completely foreign, completely new to MMA. But now it's just really about sinking my teeth into the ground work and training it for myself instead of as a partner for these other girls."
With an impressive professional kickboxing record of 11-2-1 and multiple titles to her merit, the female striking scene must be worried their stars will continue to lean towards the more lucrative option of plying their trade in MMA. But, Van Soest says the reason behind this transition isn't as cut and dry as pure finance.
"If Muay Thai paid what MMA pays, I'd be happy to do that forever. But, for the entire length of my Muay Thai career, people have been asking, when are you going to do MMA? When are you going to transition into MMA? And I've always been like, 'no, I'll wait, I'll wait, I'm really happy doing Muay Thai.' But, it finally just got to a point where I'm like, you know what, I've got to at least give it a shot.
"I'm young enough, I've got the skills enough, I've got the resources. I don't want to think 'what if?' I don't want to spend my whole life wondering, 'what if I did do MMA?' So I felt like I won a few titles in Muay Thai in two different weight classes. I felt like I've done a lot for the sport, done a lot for myself. I'm proud of what I've done in Muay Thai, and so I figured: why not pursue something else? Why not give it a shot?"
It's unclear as to whether this appearance under the Invicta FC banner will mean Van Soest will stick to MMA from here on in. But, there's nothing more intriguing in MMA than when a pure striker decides to test their skills in the cage under mixed rules.