UFC Fight Island 3: Pannie Kianzad Feels She’s Had a Harder Road to the Top

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It took a minute, but it feels like Pannie Kianzad has finally arrived in the UFC.

The bantamweight, who appeared on The Ultimate Fighter 28 (at featherweight), wasn’t gifted a contract at the end of the season. Few fighters were. But she was invited back at UFC 239 last year, and while she came up short against Julia Avila that night, she has now won two straight, most recently against former title challenger Bethe Correia at UFC Fight Island 3 on Saturday.

“That was tough. That was exactly what I expected from her,” Kianzad told Cageside Press following the event. “She comes to throw hands. I’m just ready to bring my A-Game. I’m ready to fight whoever.”

Kianzad has her sights set at the top 15, top 10 next. “It’s time now. I felt that I’ve proved that tonight.”

There was something of an odd sequence at the end of the opening round between Kianzad and Correia. The Brazilian appeared to mistake the clapper (10 second warning) for the bell, turning and walking away. Kianzad took advantage — fully permitted under the rules — and got a couple of shots in.

“I was shocked that she just turned away. And then the ref said ‘keep fighting’ and I just went for my haymaker,” she recalled. “That was the one time I thought I had her, and I think I got in a pretty good uppercut at the end of the third round too.”

Ultimately, the Swedish-Iranian fighter was happy with her performance. “I felt I stepped up my game since last time. I was more aggressive, I trusted my cardio a bit more this time.”

So yes, Pannie Kianzad has arrived in the UFC. Two wins means a little bit of job security at least. That wasn’t the case after TUF 28.

“Honestly I was heartbroken,” she said of not getting the call-up following the show. “I went back home, fought again at a local show.”

That could easily have been her final fight. “I thought it was the end, honestly. I thought so. But I took that fight at home to see if I really still had the love for the sport, and I did.”

Sticking it out paid off, given the UFC called her after that win. “Some people just have a harder road to the top,” Kianzad observed. “Some people just have to do more stuff, even though they feel like ‘is it really necessary?’ But I get that role. Some people just have that. I know that I’m strong enough.”

Watch our full UFC Fight Island 3 interview with Pannie Kianzad above.

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