In China, 2014 is the Year of the Horse, in the IOC this is the Year of the XXII Olympic Winter Games, but in MMA many are calling this the Year of the Strawweight. The UFC, the sport’s premier organization, is set to lead the way by establishing a Women’s MMA strawweight division complete with an entire twentieth season of its hit reality show The Ultimate Fighter geared around crowning the winner as the promotion’s first-ever strawweight champion.Understandably, other promotions have followed suit by signing and featuring some of the sport’s most talented strawweights in what many consider the deepest division in Women’s MMA. As fortune would have it, the RFA signed the division’s premier prospect last summer. That would be Russian born WMC Muay Thai world champion Justine Kish. One of the world’s leading female Muay Thai practitioners, Kish has supplemented her competitive appetite by also competing in professional MMA, Boxing, and Kickboxing only to compile undefeated records in all three additional combat sport endeavors.Now fully focused on MMA, Kish is making the drop to this year’s glamour division. After racking up dominant wins in her first three MMA bouts as a flyweight, she is now ready to display her skills to the world as part of RFA’s first-ever nationally televised Women’s MMA bout. Kish will be facing Canada’s #1 ranked strawweight in Randa Markos Thomas, who shares an identical undefeated record, in what many are billing as one of the division’s must-see bouts of the year.

In the interview below, the 25-year-old four-sport combat athlete, tells all about her diverse combat sports background as she prepares to fight on national television for the first time in her young and promising MMA career. Kish will battle Markos Thomas on the main card of RFA 12 – Ortega vs. Koch on Friday, January 24th. The bout will take place at the historic Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California and will be televised live and nationwide on AXS TV at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT.

Name: Justine Kish

Born: April 13, 1988 (age 25)

Nationality: Russian

Height: 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)

Weight: 115 lb (52 kg; 8.2 st)

Division: Strawweight

Hometown: Saint Petersburg, Russia (Now in Los Angeles, California)

Team: Black House MMA

Head Coach: Kenny Johnson and Jeff Jimmo

Twitter: www.twitter.com/JustineKish1

What is your training background? I started training Kenpo Karate when I was 13-years-old. After that I started Muay Thai, Boxing, Kickboxing, and MMA. I currently have a 18-2 record in Muay Thai, 2-0 record in Boxing, 1-0 record in Kickboxing, and 3-0 record in MMA.

Who are some of your main training partners? Jessica Penne, Tiffany Van Soest, Pedro Munhoz, and Perceu Friza.

What got you interested in doing MMA? It was a new challenge, a way for me to test myself, and another way for me to compete.

What ranks or titles have you held? I’m the WMC Muay Thai super-featherweight world champion, I’m a Bangla Stadium (Patong, Thailand) champion in Muay Thai, I’m a second-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate, and I’m a Golden Gloves champion (North Carolina) in Boxing

You recently decided to drop to strawweight (115-pounds). Was that decision made after the UFC created a strawweight division? I just felt that 115-pounds is a very competitive division with a lot of talent and it would be the best way for me to test myself.

Would you like to be on The Ultimate Fighter 20 (TUF 20) if you win at RFA 12? Right now I am giving all of my attention to this fight and we will see how I do. I fight one fight at a time.

The UFC recently acquired 11 contracts from Invicta FC to compete on TUF 20. Is there anyone in that group that stands out to you the most? They signed some great talent. I would love to test myself against any of those women.

You submitted Top 10 flyweight Munah Holland in your pro MMA debut. How did that fight happen? I came straight from Thailand and had been fighting on average about once a week in Muay Thai. When my coaches say I have a fight, I say okay.

Two of your three wins in MMA have come by submission. Do you think people are underestimating your ground game? I know in MMA you have to be strong everywhere. It’s just as important for me to train my wrestling and jiu-jitsu as I do with my striking. I want to be strong everywhere. That’s what I’m aiming for.

What made you decide to move from Cramerton, North Carolina to Los Angeles, California? I was getting ready to teach Muay Thai seminars in Europe when I was given an opportunity to come out and train at Black House MMA. In this sport we only have a very small window of opportunity to train with the best so I took it.

Who are your MMA, Muay Thai, and Combat Sport heroes? I love Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida. To see how they live their lifestyles, I learn from that, and live the same way.

How does it feel to be in the first televised Women’s MMA fight in RFA history? I am super excited. My family, friends, and supporters are all excited. It’s a great opportunity for myself and Women’s MMA, but at the end of the day I’m going to compete the same way that I always do.

What do you prefer: MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, or Boxing? My passion is Muay Thai. That could change one day when I get more experience with MMA, but right now my passion is definitely Muay Thai.

What do you do when you aren’t training for a fight? I love swimming, running, being outdoors, and relaxing with my friends and family. I also love to teach and work with my clients.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a fighter?
I love teaching Muay Thai, giving classes, and private training.

What is your favorite way to win a fight? I just like to finish my fights. I hate going to a decision. I definitely prefer to win by KO or Submission.

What does your family think of you being a professional fighter? They are so supportive, excited, and help me out so much. Between travels and airports, I always make it a point to go back to North Carolina to visit them.

What do you think of the the women’s strawweight division as a whole and the recent growth of Women’s MMA?
I think it’s exciting the way they are building up the competition. That will convince more women to do it. We work just as hard as the guys do and deserve the same chances.

This will be your second fight in the RFA. How do you feel about the organization? I love the RFA. It’s an exciting promotion to be a part of and they always have very competitive cards. A lot of my teammates also compete for the RFA so it’s very much like a family.

You fight Canada’s #1 strawweight Randa Markos Thomas on Friday, January 24th. What are your thoughts on her?
With her coming to the United States with these credentials, I have a lot of respect for her. She’s not coming all the way from Canada to play around. She’s coming to fight and I expect it to be a very exciting fight for the fans.

Do you expect Markos Thomas to avoid your stand-up skills and utilize her grappling prowess? I expect her to be prepared to fight me anywhere, to bring it, and make this a great fight.

Do you have any sponsors or people you would like to thank before your big title fight at RFA 12? I would like to thank Vega, Frog Fuel, Puro Paño, Fairtex, Bolt Wrestling, and Black House MMA. I would also like to thank my family, friends, and teammates.

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