Warning: Story contains explicit images of a surgical procedure.
Pam Sorenson had a plan.
Last November, the biggest fight of Sorenson’s career didn’t go her way. Competing for a vacant Invicta FC featherweight championship, Sorenson went four rounds with Felicia Spencer before succumbing to a rear-naked choke. She was disappointed in her performance and wanted to compete again soon, this time back at 135 pounds.
She’d been in talks to fight Katharina Lehner, but first there was the matter of dealing with some nagging aches and pains that had been plaguing her for well over a year. Sorenson, 33, figured that it was just the natural order of being a fighter and getting older. She was shrugging off the symptoms until she fell ill and was advised to get herself checked out. Only then did she discover that there was a much more substantial issue.
“In the beginning of January, I just happened to come down with a stomach flu, so I was having that pain in my right side and then I wasn’t able to keep anything down and I had a fever,” Sorenson told MMA Fighting. “So I talked to one of my friends from the gym who works in an emergency room and he was like, ‘You need to go in. That could be appendicitis. It could be something serious.’
“Then we just kind of went in and found out it wasn’t.”
What it turned out to be was a massive ovarian cyst, which Sorenson was more than happy to share with her followers on social media when she had it removed.
“I had gone to the emergency room, I think it was late, late on a Friday night, early Saturday morning, and they were like, ‘Yeah, you need to go to your regular doctor right away on Monday,’” Sorenson said. “I got into my regular doctor on Monday and they were like, ‘Alright, we have an opening Wednesday morning, so Wednesday morning you’re coming in, we’re taking that thing out.’ Because they were worried that it was gonna rupture and that would have created all sorts of problems.”
In the end, the doctors had to remove not just the cyst, but also an ovary and a fallopian tube, both of which were too badly damaged. Sorenson doesn’t expect her health to be affected negatively in the long term by the surgery, though she was told that it could take some time for her body to produce hormones at the same levels that it did before.
The immediate aftermath was difficult to deal with. Sorenson was told that her recovery shouldn’t take long, but her interpretation of “recovery” differed from that of her physicians.
“It was definitely a lot worse than I thought it was gonna be,” Sorenson said. “First, when I went in I had never had a big surgery like this before. They just said six-to-eight weeks recovery and I figured six-to-eight weeks and I’ll be back to doing everything.
“No, it was six weeks and then going for one walk a day and that was about how much I could take. Then very slowly adding things back in because you use your abdominals for so much and they had to cut through all of them. It was pretty rough and there was a few times that I was like, I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to fight again. They said I should be able to and they’re going to do everything that they could to make sure I would be able to, but it definitely crossed my mind a few times that I wouldn’t be able to again.”
It wasn’t until around the end of April that Sorenson felt confident enough to discuss booking a fight. Even then, her ordeal had made losing weight harder than usual and she wondered if returning to bantamweight was still possible.
When she spoke to Invicta president Shannon Knapp, Sorenson was asked if she was planning to go forward with the drop down to 135 or fight again at 145 and she told Knapp that a fight in August would have to happen at featherweight.
“She’s like, ‘Oh perfect, you wanna fight Kaitlin?’” Sorenson recalled.
And so Sorenson once again finds herself in a fight for the vacant Invicta featherweight title, this time against women’s MMA pioneer Kaitlin Young, who is in currently authoring an impressive comeback story of her own. The two both proudly represent Minnesota and Young actually lives and trains about 15 minutes from Sorenson.
A championship bout in their home state didn’t come to fruition, but Sorenson is still excited about facing Young and is by no means overlooking the 12-year veteran. Though Young has close to a .500 record, she holds a knockout win over Miesha Tate as well as losses to Gina Carano, Lauren Murphy, Liz Carmouche, and Leslie Smith.
If the last year has taught Sorenson anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.
“I have watched a lot of her older fights and I think when she was early on in her career she took a lot of fights that she wasn’t ready for yet, but she took the fights that she was offered,” Sorenson said of Young. “They were probably the only fights out there. She probably wasn’t ready to fight Gina Carano when she fought her, but she did it anyways because it was that or she wasn’t gonna get a fight.
“So I think her record is very misleading mostly because she’s been doing it for so long and back then, eight, 10 years ago, you didn’t turn a fight down even if the person was bigger than you or had a lot more experience than you. She’s a lot better than her record indicates.”
Sorenson and Young face off in the main event of Invicta FC 36, which takes place at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas, on Friday. The card will air live on UFC Fight Pass.