(Pictures) sat before the television
cameras to answer questions about her fight with Gina Carano (Pictures) this Saturday for EliteXC
"Primetime" on CBS. The ESPN crew was working on a piece
surrounding Carano, the American Gladiator, and whether she was
tenured enough after just five fights to earn a spot representing
mixed martial arts before what could become the biggest audience
ever to watch the sport.
"What they were asking me about was what women who had been in the
sport longer thought (of Gina)," Young said. "I basically said to
the guy, ‘I've only had five fights, too. You're barking up the
ESPN's "E:60" segment on Carano ended up featuring comments from
Tara LaRosa and Shayna
Baszler (Pictures), veteran fighters, who were
somewhat critical about the darling of female MMA. But Carano's
opponent was nowhere to be found.
"They were trying hard to get me to trash talk," Young said.
"They'd ask me a question and they'd be like, ‘So you're saying
Gina doesn't deserve it?' And I'm like, ‘No, I'm not saying that.'
I mean, they were trying hard."
The problem is, if Carano doesn't deserve the shot on CBS, than
Young, 22, probably doesn't either. For Young to begrudge Carano
for her notoriety could be seen as hypocritical, because a buzz has
also developed around Young very early in her career. The root of
that buzz is not from fights on Showtime or fits of smashing
competitors with jousting sticks on NBC. Anyone who was in the
Evansville Coliseum in Evansville, Indiana on Nov. 24 of last year
knows why people are excited about Kaitlin Young (Pictures).
That night, Young knocked out three consecutive opponents to win a
one-night female grand prix tournament that featured fighters
ranging from 125 to 135 pounds. Suzi Smith went down cold in 22
seconds after a knee to the head. Miesha Tate was taken out in 30
seconds with a head kick. Patti
Lee was finished in 53 seconds after a knee to the body.
"It's rare to get a guy who can make that much of an impression in
one night, and the women, they don't get the opportunity to compete
as much as men," said Jeff
Osborne (Pictures), promoter of Hook N Shoot, the
long-standing MMA promotion that put on the women's tournament.
"Kaitlin took full advantage of that and made herself a star."
Greg Nelson, one of Young's trainers at Minnesota Martial Arts
Academy, said he knew Young would have a striking advantage over
most of the women in the tournament. But he didn't expect Young to
steal the show the way she did.
"She just walked through all of them like it was pretty easy,"
Nelson said. "That was a little bit more surprising."
Young was also a bit surprised. The bouts were only the second,
third and fourth of her MMA career, and she had only won once by
knockout in the more than 100 tae kwon do bouts she competed in
throughout high school.
"The only real good knockout I had was I back-kicked a girl in her
face once and split her mouthguard in half and put her teeth
through her lip," Young said. "But my back kick was horrible. It
just kind of landed as a freak thing, because it totally sucked. I
don't even know how it happened. It will probably never happen
Young's next crazy knockout might not happen on the tae kwon do
circuit, but matchmakers seem to hope she'll try for it on CBS this
weekend. Almost all of the fights on the EliteXC card seem designed
to be slugfests, and Young and Carano's backgrounds in kickboxing
indicate that they may produce some of the bigger standup fireworks
of the night.
Even in losing, Young brings fireworks. She tasted defeat for the
first time in February against Sara Schneider (Pictures) via a second round armbar in Las
Vegas under the BodogFight banner. Taking stock of the loss, Young
said she got overzealous after dropping Schneider with a jab and
erred in not passing guard before trying to power out of the
submission. Jeff Osborne
(Pictures), who has a long history
with female fighters both through promoting them and running the
Web site GFight.tv, did not see Young leave the ring that night a
"Even her loss in Vegas was one of the best fights I've ever seen,
it clearly stole the show," Osborne said. "Joe Rogan and Eddie
Bravo, they hate women's fighting, and when they were leaving they
were like, ‘Man, I wasn't a fan of women's fighting, but I am
Young was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was raised in a city
called Circle Pines. She has been fighting on her feet since her
mother steered her toward tae kwon do to get away from "rough
friends" and partying at an early age. Young wanted to try football
after a middle school coached expressed interest in recruiting
"My mother wouldn't let me do it," Young said. "She thought I was
going to get hurt. So I just did tae kwon do. It kind of backfired
on her, huh?"
Young said she's had fewer injuries in her MMA training than she
did in tae kwon do, where knee collisions as well as hamstring and
ankle injuries were commonplace. She excelled in state competition,
but faltered at the national level. Muay Thai caught her eye when
she was 19, and last year she started training MMA.
At Minnesota Martial Arts, Young works everyday with wrestling
powerhouses like Sean Sherk
(Pictures) and Brock Lesnar (Pictures), and has focused on lifting
weights and developing her upper-body strength so she can be
stronger in the clinch and with her hands.
"Sometimes you have your male fighters who are easy to coach
because they've grown up wrestling or doing whatever," Nelson said.
"They just have more of that wrestling background. You don't find a
lot of the girls with that same kind of work ethic. But Kaitlin's
one of the girls that has kind of that same mentality. She can be
right in the mix with all the guys."
Young has kept up diligent training as she's transitioned from high
school into the University of Minnesota, where she's studying
kinesiology. Under a state program, Young was able to start college
in her senior year of high school. It was par for the course. Her
nationwide tae kwon do exploits had already set her on a different
path than her contemporaries.
"I had a different high school experience," Young said. "Obviously
I was always training or out-of-town for tournaments. So I didn't
go to prom, I didn't go to my own graduation actually. I really was
kind of absent, doing my own thing."
She's on a different track even in her collegiate years. She plans
to drop to a part-time course load next semester to devote more
time to her MMA training. But that wasn't before the marketers
behind Saturday night's fights seized upon the fact that she's
still in college.
"CBS made me a nickname, or Elite, somebody did. I'm ‘The College
Co-Ed,'" Young said. "I did not pick that. I heard it on a
commercial for myself. I'm totally being made fun of at the gym for
it, by the way. What, are they looking for - ‘Girls Gone Wild?' Is
that what they're trying to promote? I don't know."
Girls will go wild this Saturday. And if someone ends up
unconscious, it won't be because she had one too many appletinis.
Whatever mainstream America expects out of two women fighting in a
cage, Young said getting those eyeballs on her and her peers is the
"I've always said with women's MMA, I think it's a matter of
exposure," Young said. "I don't think people necessarily dislike
it. I think a lot of people haven't seen it. I feel like with Gina
being on ‘Gladiators' and doing all this stuff, it might be hard
for her and it might hard for her training schedule and it might
take away from her MMA. But what it is doing for the sport as a
whole, I mean, think about how many more people are going to tune
into this fight because Gina ‘Crush' Carano from ‘Gladiators' is
fighting. How many more fans are there going to be? How many people
are going to be cruising the Internet the next day for more women's
fights just because of her? That's the way I look at it."
A point likely to be harped on Saturday is that Carano is the son
of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Glenn Carano, who has been
front-row to animatedly cheer on his daughter at past fights. Young
can only imagine what her father, who died of a sudden heart attack
when she was 16, would have been like at her fights. He probably
would have stolen her spotlight.
"He was all about the fighting, he thought it was the coolest
thing," she said. "My dad was different character. He just
definitely was not the kind father who was overprotective of his
daughter. Probably the other way around. He was just like, ‘You'll
be fine.' He probably would have done something to embarrass me
because he would think it was funny. He'd probably show up with
some goofy ass hat. That's probably what he would have done,
something to embarrass me horribly on national television."
Someone's going to have to embarrass her, because if her track
record is any indication, Kaitlin Young (Pictures) won't be embarrassing herself on