The night Pannie Kianzad's mom almost cost her a fight

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

UFC bantamweight Pannie Kianzad has been honing her craft since she was just a pre-teen. The Iranian-born fighter has always loved the idea of individual competition, but found fighting after leaving another sport.

“I’ve always been interested in individual sports - I started swimming at a young age - so when I came into my teenage years I was looking for something,” said Kianzad on The Top Turtle MMA Podcast. “Somehow I just stepped into the boxing class in my hometown, and started fighting when I was 13.”

Kianzad went on to have her first amateur boxing match at just 14 years old. The success she had in those early fights led her to compete more and more over the years. While Kianzad herself couldn’t get enough of combat sports her family wasn’t 100% thrilled.

Her dad did enjoy the thought of her daughter competing. Her mother, on the other hand, was a little more conservative.

“Parents are always really worried, but my dad was pretty hyped because he’s been an athlete. When he was younger he was playing for, as a junior, the Iranian national team,” she said. “My mom was more like a real Iranian mom. She was worried about appearance, my nose, looks. I tried to tell her ‘mom, it’s not going to get better than this anyways.”

But it wasn’t just concerns about her looks that kept her mother from being your standard supportive family member. According to Pannie, her mother just can’t be at an MMA fight.

“The first time she saw me fight was actually when I did amateur MMA and she’s seen two of my pro fights,” she said. “She is a handful - you can’t have her there.”

The first way in which she is a handful has to do with her “vocal support”. Throughout the few fights that she was able to attend, Kianzad’s mother nearly cost her a fight.

“She f***s up s***. I would never have her at a fight again. That’s what I told her. Last time she was at my fight it was when I did my 5th pro fight, in my hometown, and she almost cost me the fight,” he said. “I could hear her screaming at me when I was down in mount. I was like ‘f*** off’ - I was so mad. So I told her ‘no more’. She’s a nervous wreck.”

Of course this might be different if what she was yelling was helpful. However, that simply was not the case.

“This is the funny part, she’s yelling instructions. She doesn’t even know,” she said. “She was like ‘kick her back!”

It may also be different if it ended with just some intense yelling. Though once again, her mom took it even further in a local fight.

“[My mom] grabs a hold of the biggest cage they have in Sweden with her bare hands,” Kianzad recalled of one of her early professional fights. “The guys that work for the local promotion took her away.”

Kianzad’s mom has not been to a fight since she rushed to the side of the cage and she’d like it if it remained that way, especially since she doesn’t think her current boss would enjoy those antics all that much.

“Dana White would go mad at me, like ‘never bring your mom here again,” she says with a laugh.

Of course, her mother isn’t alone in her intensity, even if it’s a slightly different style of intensity.

“Once [my father] got so excited because this broad in my third pro fight, she held onto my hair and kneed me in the face,” she said. “He got so mad that he got up and strained his back.”

Although they are a handful when it comes to watching her fights, Kianzad appreciates having the most intense parents in MMA today.

“They’re pretty cool,” she said.

(2:30 mark)

Kianzad fights Jessica-Rose Clark on the prelim portion of UFC in Moscow this weekend on ESPN+.

Author Daniel Vreeland is a co-founder of the Top Turtle Podcast, a regular contributor to the UG Feed, and a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu at New England Submission Fighting in Amherst, Massachusetts.