Only three names have truly become synonymous with women’s MMA: Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey. Katalina Malungahu is looking to add her name to the list.
The key to achieving this goal, as Malungahu told The MMA Corner, is defeating the worldwide consensus pound-for-pound best women’s fighter “Cyborg.”
“I’m happy for the victory, but I’m not satisfied as I haven’t achieved my ultimate goal,” Malungahu said.
The victory that she speaks of is a 36-second knockout of Ericka Newsome on July 28. The win pushed Malungahu’s pro record to 2-0 with both fights ending via TKO. It’s an outcome Malungahu believes she can deliver to the seemingly unbeatable Santos.
“I remember watching her fight with Carano and believed I could beat this woman,” she said.
Although she doesn’t have a background in a grappling or striking martial art, Malungahu believes the fighting spirit that flows through her veins is ultimately what gives her the edge in the cage.
“I knew I had the fighting spirit, but just needed the proper training. My dad was a boxer and had a lot of quick knockouts,” Malungahu said.
Her family is where Malungahu would begin her transition into MMA, as a surprise meeting with her uncle was taken as a sign from a higher power.
“I saw my uncle, Tony Fulilangi, who is from Tonga, and I took it as a sign as this was meant to be,” Malungahu said.
Although she took it as a sign that a career as a fighter was her destiny, Malungahu explained it wasn’t exactly a great start.
“When I asked him to train me, he told me to go home, but I proved myself with dedication,” she said.
Gaining her uncle’s help, Malungahu would begin working mitts. Her uncle expressed his shock at the raw power possessed in her hands, but Malungahu indicated another area where he contributed.
“He kind of showed me how to walk the lines, because he had been there before,” she said.
Malungahu should have no issues with walking the lines through MMA, as she has had great training since stepping into the sport. Originally training under MMA veteran Jeremy Horn, Malungahu has since moved to Las Vegas and settled at the Xtreme Couture gym. It’s at the renowned gym where Malungahu has learned to use other weapons besides her powerful right hand.
“I mostly train wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in my fight camps. I try not to rely on just my right hand. I do MMA sparring twice a week and want to prove that my opponents should fear my left hand and kicks as well,” she said.
Helping create this destructive force inside the cage are Dennis Davis, assistant coach Kyle Griffin and Vinny Magalhaes. The latter needs no introduction as Magalhaes is a world-renowned BJJ champion, but it is her partnership with Davis that personifies the coach-fighter relationship.
“At times, I would go easy on some of the guys until Dennis put me up against some pro fighters to basically beat me up and train harder,” Malungahu explained. “That’s something I’ve always appreciated with him, he never lets me take it easy.”
It would be effortless to simply walk through the motions after coming into the turmoil that has enveloped Xtreme Couture in the past year with coaches like Gil Martinez leaving, along with high-profile talent like Gray Maynard. With the upheaval happening around her, Malungahu remains focused on achieving her goals.
“That’s stuff I can’t really control. I just come in, do my work, and focus on making myself better,” Malungahu admitted. “However, I do like what I see with all the guys that train there now.”
A firm believer in the “whatever happens was meant to happen” philosophy and being a deeply religious woman, Malungahu may be one step closer to chasing down a fight with Santos.
“Invicta FC is actually talking to me about being on their third show, so that would be great,” Malungahu revealed.
Whether it’s Invicta FC or a different promotion, the knockout artist already has her target in the crosshairs. Perhaps, some day she’ll step into a cage opposite “Cyborg.” Then, she’ll have the chance to realize her destiny.
Photo: Katalina Malungahu (Kassie Feinga/Sodapop Photography)