The hordes of screaming Gina “Crush” Carano fans who tune into the premiere of CBS’s “Saturday Night Fights” this weekend to see EliteXC’s poster girl kick some ass might be in for a seriously rude awakening. Carano’s opponent for the co-featured bout is Kaitlin Young, a 21-year-old Minnesota Martial Arts Academy product who famously knocked out three women in a one-night HOOKnSHOOT tournament last November; the combined fight time was just one minute and 45 seconds. We gave Kaitlin a call last night to ask her about rolling with dudes, the advantages she’ll have in her fight against Carano, and her shitty ’91 Honda Accord.
CAGEPOTATO: We recently posted the video of your “Caveman Training” at Athletic Performance Incorporated. Be honest — they took they engine out of that pickup truck you were pulling, right?
KAITLIN YOUNG: No, everything was as-is, just as it came from the factory. Honestly, it’s not as hard as it looks. The wheelbarrow is the real killer.
When did you know you wanted to be a competitive fighter?
It’s really all I ever wanted to do. I did Olympic-style Tae Kwon Do starting when I was 14, and I’ve enjoyed the fighting arts ever since then.
Are there enough women at Minnesota Martial Arts Academy to spar and roll with, or do you usually have to train with the guys?
There are a couple of other girls, but it’s mostly guys that I’m training with at this point. Greg Nelson and Tom Schmitz help me a lot. My boyfriend Ryan Murray is a big heavyweight pro Thai boxer, so he helps me with striking and pads, and some of the wrestlers from the University of Minnesota have been working with me too.
What else do you do when you’re not training for a fight?
This semester I was a full-time student at the University of Minnesota, studying kinesiology — exercise science, which kinda fits in — and I also do a bit of strength and conditioning coaching on the side at API.
You took your first pro loss in February, against Sara Schneider at a BodogFight event. What do you think went wrong?
She did a good job executing her game plan, so I don’t want to take anything away from her, but I think I made the mistake of following a good grappler to the ground when I’m a striker. I was winning pretty decisively on the feet, and I tried to pound her out and got caught in an armbar.
How do you think you’ll apply that lesson to Gina Carano? She comes from a Muay Thai background, but she’s at least serviceable on the ground.
It’ll be different. Sara was pretty comfortable working off of her back, and to be honest, I don’t know if I’ve seen Gina in that position a whole lot, and when she’s there she’s getting out of it. So it’ll be a different kind of ground game. Obviously I’ve been working on all aspects of the ground game a lot more. Transitioning from Muay Thai to MMA, I’ve been hitting that really hard, and hopefully it all will apply.
Gina Carano has been busy with American Gladiators and has only had a few weeks to train for the fight. Do you see that as a disadvantage for her?
I try not to look at that, because I feel like if she was really that concerned she wouldn’t be talking about it so much. Aside from that, they do three-minute rounds for women in EliteXC, so a little bit of the conditioning aspect is taken out, unfortunately. I’m used to five-minute rounds. The HooknShoot tournament had three-minute rounds for the preliminary matches, but five-minute rounds for the final, had it gone that long.
You’ve also competed at 135 pounds previously. Do you think fighting at 140 puts Gina at an advantage?
When I was fighting at 135, I was walking around at about 145, and I’m bigger now. That’s a misconception that people have — part of the reason I’m viewed as an underdog is they think I’m small, and it’s not true. I’m not a little girl by any means. When I used to do amateur Thai boxing, most of my fights were at around 150, and all of my Tae Kwon Do matches were at 147 or 158.
What are you going to do with that first big CBS check?
Probably pay off some student loans, as lame as that is. I just want to set myself up as much as possible, maybe look for a new vehicle. I’m currently driving a ’91 Honda Accord — a total hoopty. You know that Adam Sandler song, “Piece of Shit Car”? Yeah, it’s pretty bad. But it’s got over 200,000 miles and it’s still going. I’ve always wanted a Jeep Wrangler, but with gas prices right now, I’m not sure if that’s a great idea. Maybe a motorcycle would make more sense.
How are you going to celebrate when you beat Gina on Saturday?
Well, first I’ll take the cornrows out of my hair, which is a chore. But my boyfriend’s coming out to the fight, my strength and conditioning coach, his wife, and a bunch of guys I train at Athletic Performance are coming out too, so I think we’re all going to go out and have a good time.
— Ben Goldstein