Veteran women’s MMA fighter Tonya Evinger knew that if she was going to take her game to the next level, she’d have to make changes.
“I’m just trying to step back and re-evaluate everything I’m doing and put myself in a good place for me, personally, to train, perform, and get back on track and be the best fighter I can be,” she told MMAWeekly.com.
So she packed up her bags and headed from Sacramento, Calif., down to Temecula, Calif., to join up with Dan Henderson and his team, and it’s made a world of difference.
“It’s awesome to be around that team environment and wrestlers like myself; it’s so supportive,” she said. “I feel like my hands and everything has gotten so much better.
“I’ve been working a lot on my kicks and stuff that I haven’t had the balls enough to do in a fight. That’s been a real big problem for me is getting my confidence in my stand-up and not just go into my comfort zone which is wrestling.”
Initially training for a headlining fight in October, Evinger will get an opportunity to test out her new skills sooner than she anticipated as she steps in on short notice to take on former Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann at Titan FC 19 on Friday night in Kansas City, Kan.
“I used to wrestle her all the time, but it’s been a long time since I last faced her,” said Evinger. “She and I would be in the finals of every wrestling meet.
“Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to me, it’s an opportunity. I have no doubt that Sara is going to be ranked in the Top 10 soon enough; (but for now) she’s going to work her way up.”
While the two are familiar with each other from their days as amateur wrestlers, Evinger has been fighting professionally in MMA since 2006, while McMann made her debut this past May.
“Being a wrestler, you’re always taught to keep moving, to keep going forward and be offensive, and that’s one thing in this sport that can get you in trouble or get you caught,” said Evinger. “When you’ve fought someone who’s fought as much as me, you’ve got to kind of step back and be cautious of what’s out there or what could happen.
“I’m not saying she needs to be afraid of me or anything, but I think that should be in everyone’s mind. She’s got good training and is always in shape, she’s big and she’s strong, but hopefully my quickness and experience is going to come out and bring me the win.”
With the popularity of women’s MMA seemingly on an endless roller-coaster ride over the last several years, Evinger understands the difficulty sustaining a career in such an unpredictable environment and has already begun to make plans on what to do next with her life.
“I’m working on starting my own promotion,” she said. “I definitely love competing, but I don’t like the paydays. They are horrible. There’s no way I can survive off of fighting; it sucks.
“I feel like I’ve been in this sport long enough that I have enough experience and bad feelings and good feelings to know how to treat fighters, and the way you need to run a promotion. If I don’t; then I’ll learn real fast. I’m hoping to start throwing my own shows in September or October.”
Having gone through various trials and tribulations both in her professional and private life, Evinger has made the changes needed to establish herself as one of the top women fighters in MMA and beyond.
“I’m a local girl and it’s awesome to be fighting in Kansas City and for Titan and get on HDNet and get some more coverage,” she said. “If you don’t know I’m fighting, you better get on board because I’m going to bring some fireworks and throw everything I can at her.
“If I connect, I connect; if I don’t, I don’t; but at least we’ll put on a good show that will be worth coming out to.”