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Invicta FC matchmaker Kaitlin Young tried out for TUF 28, planning MMA comeback

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Kaitlin Young enjoys signing new talent and putting matches together. Now, though, she wants to get back in the cage herself.

Young, the Invicta FC matchmaker, tried out for The Ultimate Fighter 28 this past week in Las Vegas and she’s planning a full-scale MMA comeback, whether or not she makes it onto the show.

“I don’t feel like I did what I could have done in MMA and it’s something I would like to give another shot,” Young told MMA Fighting this week in a phone interview.

Young, who is still just 32 years old, last fought in MMA back in 2014 at Invicta FC 9, a loss to Raquel Pa’aluhi. That defeat marked four straight for Young and, at that point, she decided to step away from the cage despite a solid early part of her career that included wins over Miesha Tate and Julie Kedzie.

However, over the last four years Young has continued fighting in Thai boxing, her base discipline, and has gone 12-1. Young, who has a 7-9-1 record in MMA, believes she’s a different person now than she was when she left MMA and said she is having a hard time getting suitable opponents in Muay Thai.

“I feel like I’ve really hit my stride,” said Young, who was brought on by Invicta as matchmaker in 2016. “It is a different art, but mentally I’ve developed a lot. And maybe part of that is from watching other fighters so much to see what they’re doing.”

Young, a Minnesota native, said she has been thinking about getting back in the cage and when the TUF 28 tryouts — for 145-pound female fighters — popped up, she thought it was the perfect opportunity. Young wants to remain as Invicta matchmaker, so of course she could not fight for Invicta and would not want to join a competitor.

“It was sort of serendipitous,” said Young, who first started in pro MMA when she was 21 in 2007.

Also trying out for TUF were Invicta fighters like Pannie Kianzad and Pam Sorenson. Young said she didn’t have to roll with any of them, but the experience was not an odd one.

“Really, at this point, women’s MMA has gotten so much bigger, but when I started we all knew each other anyway,” Young said. “I’m not the sort of fighter that feels malicious against anybody I compete against. It wasn’t too weird for me. Some of the Invicta fighters I already have fought, anyway. It’s kind of old hat, I suppose. Any awkwardness, I’ve already gotten used to that at this point.”

Young said being a matchmaker under Invicta FC president Shannon Knapp has been an adjustment from the viewpoint of a fighter, but a positive one, which partly has led her back to wanting to get back in the cage herself.

“Honestly, I think it’s helped my mindset as a fighter a ton, too,” Young said. “I think that happens any time you get to see things from the other side of the table. It takes a minute, right, once you get into the role, but then you see things from a promoter’s standpoint and what are they looking for. I think it can actually help you evaluate yourself a little more objectively. And also thinking about what your goals are.”

Being a fighter has been an advantage for her as matchmaker, Young said. And she believes it works the other way, too. Fighters can relate to her better as not just a promotion official, but as a peer.

“It’s funny, I think it makes me way more sympathetic about some things and way less sympathetic about others,” Young said. … “Any time we can have a more well-rounded view of anything we do in life in general, it’s good. But it’s especially true of matchmaking and fighting. I think it can be beneficial for all parties involved.”

Young very much believes in Invicta as a breeding ground for future women’s MMA stars, because of the promotion’s emphasis on development outside the cage and tough competition inside it. Invicta is one of the best MMA companies as far as accentuating a fighter’s personality.

“It’s not like they just come here and fight,” Young said. “I think it’s a place where they develop as a fighter. They’re taking the kinds of fights that will make them develop into the sort of fighter that can walk right into the UFC co-[main event] and main event and perform. Sometimes when fighters are taking fights that don’t challenge them, that’s a really tough jump to make.

“Not just that, they get a real opportunity to develop their brand with Invicta, I think. With the media focus and that kind of stuff, they can really kind of come into their own and just think about what kind of fighter they’re going to be.”

Young, herself, has thought about what kind of MMA fighter she’ll be now — an active one.