UFC veteran Shanna Young returns to action on week five of the 2023 PFL Challenger Series, part of a flyweight division that is being introduced to the league this year.
Young has been fighting since she was 16, taking a bout in Virginia with her mother’s blessing, at a time when the state had no commission. That was the start of a journey that took her first to Invicta FC, then to the UFC itself.
“The Shanimal” went 1-1 in 2022, and following a loss to Miranda Maverick last time out, now finds herself embarking on a career outside of the octagon. There was a time when life after the UFC felt dire if it existed at all. But in more recent years, free agency and options like the PFL and other promotions have seen that change.
“For sure, I’m honestly pretty excited about everything that comes next,” Young (8-5) told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview ahead of her PFL debut. “I’ve never been one to get into the whole New Year thing, the whole ‘new year, new me’ and everything, but I don’t know, everything kind of happened at the right time, going into the new year and everything. I kind of just feel like, I’m looking at everything a little bit differently. I’m ready to go back to my roots, and have fun doing this. I’m excited for what’s coming up.”
Young made the move to Las Vegas ahead of her third fight in the UFC, making the decision spur of the moment when she felt something was missing from her camp. “You know there’s big teams out here and a lot of opportunity, so I just decided last minute to uproot, come out here. I had four, five weeks left in my camp,” Young recalled. “I just showed up, ‘hey guys, I’m Shanna, it’s nice to meet everyone, let’s do this, I fight in a month.” Young admits it has been a process transplanting to Vegas, where she’s currently taking courses to become a Home Inspector in addition to fighting, but says it was a “great decision” nonetheless, one that led her to Syndicate MMA and coach John Wood.
When it comes to the Professional Fighters League, “I’m super-excited about the opportunity. We were looking at a bunch of options for me moving forward, and [my manager] mentioned this,” said Young. “I was just so excited to join the PFL.”
Whether or not the PFL opts to launch a women’s flyweight division for the regular season remains to be seen. Young didn’t know the answer to that question herself.
“I don’t know the answer — I don’t know either,” admitted Young. But while it’s now the great unknown she’s entering so to speak, “I like the great unknown,” she stated. “It’s kind of mysterious. I like mysterious.”
“I’m just excited about all of the opportunities moving forward from here. The past couple of years, and COVID, and the UFC and everything, it’s really kind of changed the fight game for me,” admitted Young, whose entire UFC career outside of her debut in Rio Rancho, NM played out during the coronavirus pandemic. “I want to get back to my amateur days. I love to fight, I just want to get in there and I just want to fight, and I don’t want it to be so stressful and I don’t want it to be what it’s turned into the last couple of years, with all the weirdness in the world. I’m just ready to fight, man.”
Young hadn’t started breaking down her opponent, Sandra Lavado, when we talked to her, but on the surface, she noted that “Sandra does have a really good record, I think it’s a really good fight. Sh*t, I’m excited to get in there.”
After taking karate as a child and branching out from there, “I’m pretty confident anywhere,” she added. “I started in karate, I got into wrestling. If you look at my fights, it’s kind of crazy how all over the board I tend to be. I’ll be really trying to stand up with somebody one fight, and then the next fight, I’m like diving for heel hooks. I kind of pride myself on being able to change the game and do it all.”
Ultimately, “The Shanimal” just wants to fight. No predictions, no trash talk, just a fresh mindset and getting back to her roots is what she’s looking to do.
“I just really want to get in there and leave it all in the cage. Like I said before, it’s been so stressful, it’s turned into such a job, there’s just been so much weirdness going on in the world that I’m just really adopting a new mindset this year. I really just want to get in there and get back to my roots, do it again for the reason that I started,” said Young. “I just want to get in there and fight and leave it all in the cage. I think it’s going to be a show.”
Shanna Young faces Sandra Lavado as part of Week 5 of the PFL Challenger Series on February 24, 2023. Watch our full interview with “The Shanimal” above.