If you were an MMA fan and were a loyal HDNet viewer, you probably didn’t know who Marianna Kheyfets was until a few weeks ago. Kheyfets, who trains out of American Top Team in Connecticut, made a huge impact by defeating Kim Couture with a triangle choke at the XFC 11 card in Tampa.
Bellator competitor Jessica Aguilar had trained with Kheyfets in Florida, when Kheyfets was attending college there. Aguilar saw natural talent and was impressed by her win.
We got a chance to talk to “The Crushin Russian” to talk about her incredible debut, plus how she got here and her future in MMA.
FighterGirls: How did you get started in MMA
Marianna Kheyfets: I did different martial arts as a kid and then stopped when I went to college. After a few years away from it I felt a void in my life and an itch to get in the ring. I started looking for a reputable gym in south Florida and found American Top Team. I joined American Top Team in Hallandale Florida and then moved to the one in West Palm Beach…it was there that I started competing in Muay Thai shows and learning BJJ. From there I became interested in mixing it all together and eventually competing in MMA. I was surrounded by some of the worlds best fighters at ATT so I started watching their fights and really started to become an MMA fan.
FG: Where are you currently training/with who and what does a typical day of training involve?
MK: I now train at American Top Team CT/Best Way BJJ in Danbury CT. I train 5 to 6 days a week there in all the various disciplines of MMA. Two days a week would be sparring, two days would just be BJJ and 2 days for wrestling or pad work or bagwork. My BJJ instructor is Luigi Mondelli and I work with Rob Cipriano for my striking. I am really blessed to have a lot of talented training partnes at the gym so they push me everyday.
FG: How did the XFC fight come about? Did you take it last minute?
MK: The XFC held a try out at my gym and I knew a lot of my training partners were going to try out. So I decided to try out as well. Out of 100 guys I made it to the final 10. XFC president John Prisco was impressed with my try out and told me that he’d give me the opportunity to fight for the XFC. After that I trained even harder and then I got the call a few months later. I took the fight on a months notice.
FG: What was it like to make your MMA debut and beat Kim Couture at the same time?
MK: The whole weekend of the fight was a dream come true! I felt confident going in that I could compete with Kim. I knew it was going to be a tough fight but I was mentally and physically prepared. As far as it being my MMA debut…I just felt like there was no better time then right now to make it happen. Every amateur fight I had in the past lead to a bigger fight but this one was definitely on a huge stage. I was just so grateful to be in that position and to have my team around me and have the support of my family and friends back home.
FG: What do you have coming up in the future?
MK: I am looking to fight again soon! It was a challenging yet very rewarding feeling the first time around and I started to compete because I loved the challenge. So I’m just going to continue to train and learn and hopefully fight again soon.
FG: Who do you most admire in the sport?
MK: I admire every fighter that steps in the cage. I know how much sacrifice it takes. So I respect every fighter who puts everything on the line for a sport that they love. Being a female mixed martial artist…I really have a lot of respect for the other girls who train. I know a lot of people have mixed emotions about women fighting but I’m glad I have an outlet to compete in this sport and I have to thank all the girls who’ve been paving the way for us.
FG You’ve even competed/sparred against men in competition, how did that go?
MK: Yes, I’ve been sparring (kickboxing) since I was 12 years old…and most of the time it was against male training partners. So i’m used to it and it gives me alot of confidence going into a fight. I look up to all the guys I train with. I’m always trying to learn from them and copy how they move, their footwork etc. I wish there were more girls to train with and I hope that more girls will give the sport a try.
FG: Tell us about yourself: Age, hobbies, anything about you that you want us to know…
MK: I just turned 25 =) I am a huge sports fan…ever since I was little I can remember watching any and every kind of sporting event. Right now I’m a college football kinda girl (Go Canes!!–my alma mater) I’m a huge dog lover as well and my favorite breed is the pitbull. I want to open a pitbull rescue/shelter when I retire.