UFC vet Impa Kasanganay returns to action this March, where he’ll make the move to light heavyweight as part of this year’s PFL Challenger Series.
It’s been years since Kasanganay fought at 205lbs, the last time being necessitated by a catchweight with Bryan Battle, who missed weight for their amateur bout in 2018. As it turns out, that was a key fight for Kasanganay, one that paved the way for bigger and better things.
“Crazy thing about that fight right there is, that was one of the most pivotal, and most impressionable fights of my life, because I was brand new in fighting,” Kasanganay told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview. “I didn’t understand, Bryan just kept taking me down, I didn’t listen to my coaches at all. Then like near the end I had like a burst, and he just kept winning, he won by points. But that changed it for me. I think that fight is what helped me get to the major leagues and the UFC, because ever since then I was like ‘never again. I’m just going to keep getting better and better and better and better.’ I’m really grateful for that fight.”
Jump back to 2023, and Impa Kasanganay has a chance to land in the PFL’s regular season in a light heavyweight fight with Osama Elseady. In terms of moving up to light heavyweight now, Kasanganay isn’t doing anything too crazy to bulk up, just doing his due diligence as a whole.
“I’m actually around the size of a light heavyweight. I can be like 220, 225.” Fighting, however, “is about being the better fighter,” he added. “And that’s what’s important. Yeah there’s strength, but how you move, how you read, how intelligent you are, how you listen to your coaches, the way you train. You put someone’s knees together, you take them down, you hit someone on the chin, they go down. It’s about being the better fighter, and that’s important for me. My focus is to be a better fighter, improve every day incrementally, and make those big jumps when they’re there.”
When it comes to securing that spot in the regular season, Kasanganany has no intention of trying to force the issue. While some fighters might go out of their way to try and put on a show, “I don’t believe in ever putting a show on. I’m not an entertainer, I’m not a musician, I’m not some, in this regard, I’m not a person trying to go do something impressive. I’m going to fight, that’s my focus. Dominate, beat this person up, claim this victory. That always ends up being entertaining in itself, naturally. That’s a byproduct of it.”
“If I go out there just trying to be entertaining, then I lose focus on why I’m there.”
The options for fighters outside the UFC have expanded in recent years, with ONE Championship, Bellator, the PFL, RIZIN, and several promotions in Europe offering the type of money that simply wasn’t there in years past. For Kasanganay, the PFL was simply the right choice.
“I love this warrior path. The fact that there’s options for fighters, and people — some people like to fight once or twice a year. That’s not me. I want to fight, like this year I get to fight five times, go get that title plus the Challenger Series,” noted Kasanganay. “Then every year I’ll fight four times, defend that title, defend that title. To me, it’s so special, because I think every organization tailors to each fighter’s circumstances in a way.”
“RIZIN, they don’t have many shows, but some people might only want to fight once a year, make big contracts. Some guys want to fight in Bellator, maybe two or three fights, maybe one fight a year. I think PFL is perfect for me just because I don’t have much weight to cut, I get to fight all the time, I know I’m on a schedule, and I’m a big explorer,” he continued. “I love to travel, go on a motorcycle, so when the off-season happens, I’ve got a couple weeks where I could go from North Africa to South Africa on a motorcycle. I can go all over Europe, Asia, different things maybe I wouldn’t have gotten to do if I was in the UFC. So God had that plan for me. Spend time with my family who I really, really love.”
While ONE Championship is also a cool option, with their rule set and the different martial arts athletes can compete in, “When I think about who I am and the kind of fighter I am and fighting in general, I think the PFL is the best for me,” Kasanganay stated. “Life’s not over after the UFC.”
Impa Kasangany’s post-UFC career got started with Eagle FC, a fight he also considers life-changing even though it didn’t go his way. Last July, he returned to the win column with a TKO finish of fellow UFC vet Jared Gooden.
Now, it’s on to Osama Elseady, who Kasanganay calls “an excellent opponent. I think he has an awesome overhand right, he’s got some awesome wrestling. He’ll go in, comes forward. He’s crafty. You don’t see many guys like him throwing front teeps, like he knocked his last opponent out.”
“I’ve seen him in trouble too, and he didn’t quit. And I’ve seen him also respond well. Focused fighter. He’s got power. He’s got a heart, he’s an Egyptian guy, I think he represents Jordan as well, excuse me if I’m wrong. But he comes from a warrior culture.”
Kasangany knows he has to be smart about “dominating where I’m going to dominate, and respecting what he has. I’m looking forward to that fight.”
As for the season ahead, Kasanganay is clearly game to stay busy. He’d even be down for the return of two fights in a night, something the PFL featured during the playoffs in seasons past.
“I’d love to. I’d fight more in the season if I could, do like six fights. Eight fights. It’d be great. I love to fight, I’d fight every weekend of the year. It’d be cool too, especially if you have the opportunity to win two titles,” Kasanganay exclaimed. “How about winning two titles in one night? That would be something special, right?”
As for the rest of the light heavyweight field, “I would love to fight Rob Wilkinson. Of course, the champion. Did really well, so much respect for him. I love the way that he fights. Man comes to fight, he fights hard. That’s a warrior. I’d love that fight week one, week two, whatever the time is. Thiago Santos, fought Jon Jones for the title. That’s an awesome fight. Omari [Akhmedov] went to the semi-final. Those guys, I would really, really like to fight.”
Watch our full interview with PFL Challenger Series light heavyweight Impa Kasanganay above. Kasanganay faces Osama Elseady on March 10, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.