Interviews female fighters

Lana Stefanac: From Japan to Australia!

Lana Stefanac1) How was the Smackgirl event?
The Smackgirl event was absolutely awesome. There were many fights, exhibition fights, and title fights. I have never had such a great time, although, the very first day I arrived in Japan I was terribly motion sick. When we got to the hotel, everything was so small and I was so sick and frustrated that I would have swam back home for a bathroom that I could fit into. After several days and introductory immersion into the Japanese way of life I realized how great a city Tokyo is, particularly because it is part of a martial arts nation focusing on discipline and honor. My opponent, Megumi Yabushita, for example, has been studying judo since she was 3 years old, how amazing is that? In addition, there were Budo stores ever several blocks, martial art supplies, specialty sword shops; it was like a dream of a city to me.

2) Can you provide a recap of the Smackgirl event?

Honestly? Probably not. I got to see only a few of the fights because I was cornering my girl Shawn Tamaribuchi and when I fought she cornered me, so I did not get to see much. Megumi Fuji was the first fight of the night that I saw. She was, as usual, awesome. She ended the fight quickly by submission. Another thing that I got to see was an MMA exhibition type thing, where they spar pro wrestling style. These girls were jetting through the air like flying squirrels throwing kicks and knees, although it was fake, it was still thoroughly entertaining. I don’t think the Japanese care that it was fake or not, there were still “oooh’ing” and “ahh’ing” in their reserved Japanese manner. It was very different from an American event, they were no drunken men yelling “hit her in the tittie” or anything ignorant like that which is so common here. The Japanese respect fighters like heroes, similar to the way lots of people view baseball and football players. Korakuen Hall (in the Tokyo Dome) where the event took place is also where they hold most of the pro wrestling events.

3) How is the leg injury coming along?

Owie owie owie!!! Just kidding. I am healing up ok. First of all, let me tell you about my fight. And, I have to tell you that I did not want to fight Megumi Yabushita. She is significantly smaller than me. Earlier this year when I competed in Abu Dhabi, her manager Shu asked me to fight her because Megumi’s thing is that she wanted to fight a larger opponent. She has beaten a few big names to include Hitomi Akano, Erin Toughill by DQ and Svetlana Goundarenko, she even took Tara Larosa took to decision. And, if anyone was at the Fatal Femme show a few months back you would have seen her stellar performance against Lisa Ward, which also went to decision (I think Megumi won that one, nothing against Lisa). Megumi has had over 30-40 pro fights.

I declined to fight Megumi initially several times because its a lose lose situation for me. If I beat her, I am a fat moose; if I lose I am a can. So, as I understood it, Megumi wanted fight me for a long time. Smackgirl (Kinya Hashimoto, a great guy) asked me and again I declined. I kept saying “find me a bigger chick, I’ll fight anyone my size or bigger”. Well, they said that “IF” I fought Megumi and “IF” I won I would be invited back to the Absolute 8 Woman Tournament, so I said “Yes” very reluctantly. I fought her as hard as I could but the rules were very limiting. I have never fought by those kinds of rules. I was petrified of getting disqualified so I kept it standing for 10 minutes. It looked like Godzilla vs. Bambi, but Bambi was super tough. I dropped combos and knees in her face and she barely got rocked. I have hit men with less power and dropped them. I am convinced that she is the toughest female on the planet. I tore her right eye open with a hard straight right, she cussed me out in Japanese (I think it was cursing, it sounded rough ha-ha), but she would not go down. When the night was over, I could barely walk on my right leg. I tore my ACL and meniscus in my left knee earlier in the year so my attacks were all with my right leg. She blocked most of my attacks; they were hard and deliberate because I wanted an early win. When I got back, I got my foot x rayed and I fractured several long bones in my foot and have a hematoma on my shin the size of a horses ass. She is the only female to ever go the distance with me. I respect her more than any female I have ever fought or met in the MMA world. As far as women fighters, she is a hero to me. I am not proud of my win; she has every right to be more proud of herself than I do.

4) What is Princesses of Pain? How did it come about?

Princesses of Pain is a fight league that was formed in New Zealand about 4 years ago, owned and managed by Belinda Dunne. Belinda has been holding women’s MMA and Muay Thai events for some time now, but has renamed her event and is focusing now on our May 31st show of “Team Australasia vs. Team America”. Their team is led by Tony Greene, the American team is led by me. This organization is unique because it is the first all women’s league, not just an independent card, but a league comprised of women fighters from all over the world. As I write this, a Japanese team is forming already and a Brazilian and Canadian team is in the works. This is what women need, because as long as we are in male dominated events, we are typically almost always under cards. My last big pro show here in the states was massive, and while I was grateful to be part of that awesome event, I was an under card as well. I think it will be great to have all female cards as well as mixing it in with the larger male cards because those are the typically monstrous pay days for a female.

5) There is word that you are training an all female team, who will be apart of the Princesses of Pain event. Can you provide details? Such as names and they teams that they are affiliated with?

I do train an all female team, several of which are going to New Zealand. I have about a dozen females right now, and I am looking for a few more. My team is known as “Ladies of Pain-Team USA” or “Team Stefanac”; I focus on BJJ and MMA. Some of the girls train at other gyms as well but for the most part they train with me in San Francisco at Krav Maga where I run a BJJ, Grappling and MMA program. There are men and women, and we also hold private training there for my girls’ team. The women on the tentative roster to go to New Zealand (but it can and may change) representing the USA is:

Lana “Lethal Force” Stefanac – Coach/Manager (Team Stefanac)

Elaina “Beef” Maxwell – (Cung Le-USH) Main Event to fight their current champion for the Title

Cindy “The Sleeper” Hales (Gracie Barra)

Shawn “Lil Bit” Tamaribuchi (Team USA-Stefanac)

Katrine “Kitty Kat” Alendal (Fairtex)

Tamara “The Spider” Parks (Team USA-Stefanac)

Dallas Cordts (Manger- Team Apocalypse)

(More to come)

6) How can aspiring or up and coming female fighters be affiliated with your all female fight team?

I started my Team USA-Stefanac because as I started seeing more and more of the MMA world, I realized that many women were not being treated fairly by their coaches and managers. Men get so much more than women as far as attention with training and money in fights. I wanted to manage women solely because I have this vision of equality (but the rest of the world doesn’t) for us. All too often women are overlooked in the gym, “given” belts because they are women but in many cases neglected simultaneously. These are just a few huge issues. As a manager and trainer, I wanted to make it so that at least my women felt a sense of equality.

Typically, I would like to train the females that I manage, but in some cases I will make exceptions. I get tons of emails from girls looking for fights or management or places to train. If you are a female looking for management or training, if I cannot help you, I will normally forward you to someone who can. I respond to every inquiry I get. If you are looking to be on my Team USA-Stefanac, contact me and we’ll see if can work. I typically look for the right attitude and work ethic, experience is good, but with the right character and work ethic I will help build you.

And, I am still looking to fill one or two spots for New Zealand, contact me if you are interested and would like to try out.

7) Are you still with Open Door BJJ?

Yes, I train every day 12-2 with my resident black belt Sergio Silva at Open Door BJJ in Oakland (when I am not gimping on a broken foot or traveling). In addition, Sergio has added Chuteboxe black belt Israel Gomes to our mma/stand up and conditioning training every day 10:30-12. Israel is the finishing touch to my MMA game. He employs Brazil’s Chuteboxe training methodology. Another person who works closely with us is Relson Gracie’s wicked black belt Fabio “Pateta” Prado, I started under Jeff Starr who is under Relson in Ohio (I trained also with Royler and David Adiv’s guy in Ohio, Donald Park) so it is a great thing and brings a sense of ‘the old days’ to me.

Basically, Open Door is the winning Trifecta of training, we have 3 outstanding black belts under one roof, and it’s amazing.

Also, I am from Cleveland and hope to return home after I get my black belt one day, so while in California I try to see as many different academies and teaching styles as possible. This is difficult because of the politics between the schools, but diversity in training I think is essential particularly when you compete and fight as much as I do. It is important to be honest and stay out of those politics, which I manage to do. Sometimes, being female sucks, but on the other hand, I can walk into most academies and not be shunned or attacked because I am female and I won’t ever fight their top students unless they are female, so there is one case where it is an advantage to be a woman. A man in my position might be a target to higher belts in other schools, and may leave with a broken arm or two if they had my reputation and tournament record.

8) Are the BJJ Pan Ams in March or BJJ Mundials in June event you will be participating in this year?

Of course. I have been fortunate and lucky enough to have won the Pan Ams as a blue and purple belt each year. When I get my brown belt I will do the Pan Ams again for sure, and definitely the Mundials. If I am not scheduled for a pro mma fight I will always compete. Plus, I am gunning for a particular female.

9) Any last words? Shout outs? Plugs?

First and foremost, I want to thank The Ladies’ of Pain Team USA promoter and matchmaker Renee “Sammie” Wilson. Without her NONE of us would have fights. Her dedication is endless and the entire team appreciates her.

I would also like to thank my beloved sponsors and friends: Ernie Gelder, House of Pain, Zee the Pitbull, Gameness, Team Apocalypse, and Elaina Maxwell.

SF Krav Maga, Zee the Pitbull, Barney and Gail Folland.

Those who have helped build me:

My old team in Ohio, Team Relson Gracie, Jeff Starr, Royler Gracie- David Adiv, Donald Park, my baby brother Mark Stefanac.

Those currently building me:

Open Door BJJ, my black belt Sergio Silva, my new stand up black belt Israel Gomes, my favorite rolling buddies Derrick Easterling and Tony Ruiz.

I am sure I am missing a few, but Thank You all. And of course, here is my website: <> <>

Thank You,

Lana Stefanac

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