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By Galen Okazaki

On February 25, 2012, Tiffany VanSoest will climb into the ring at Lion Fight Promotion’s Battle of the Desert 5 at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. She’ll be looking to improve her professional Muay Thai record to 2-0 as she takes on Vivian Leung who currently owns a 2-0 record.

While fighting is her current vocation, more than anything else Tiffany VanSoest is an athlete and self diagnosed adrenaline junkie. Her athletic career began at the tender age of five when she kicked her first soccer ball. She continued to play soccer for club teams throughout grade school and junior high and for a championship team in high school. While in high school, Tiffany also found time to pole vault. She ended up being a league champion and she set a school record that was only very recently broken. As for soccer, she continued to play for two more years at the college level for a nationally ranked team (Cal State San Marcos). The only reason she stopped playing soccer was so that she could focus on her fight training. Along the way she also played basketball, baseball, golf and she has also been a lifelong surfer.

In light of all of this, how did she become interested in fighting you ask? *Ahem* turtles…as in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Watching the Ninja Turtles as a child, Tiffany knew she had to learn a martial art and was finally able to talk her parents into letting her enroll in a karate class at age eight. So she started to train at the United States Karate Organization in Riverside CA. She enthusiastically took to the sport and within a year she was competing in tournaments. By age 17 she had was a 2nd degree Black Belt (Nidan) and she had won USKA State, National and World titles. While she was highly successful and did well with the point scoring, she found that she really liked the full contact sparring the best.

By age fourteen Tiffany had become a fan of MMA. At that same time her karate sensei (Joey Pagliuso), had started to train and fight in Muay Thai. Once Tiffany experienced the hard hitting nature of the sport, she became an instant fan of the art of eight limbs. She was eager to do Muay Thai fights, but her parents weren’t so eager to see their daughter fight in such a hard hitting style, so she would have to wait until she was eighteen when she could sign her own release. Once she was able to fight though, she did it well and went on to have an amateur record of 9-1-1.

Photo by Ray Kasprowicz

The manner in which Tiffany turned into a professional Muay Thai fighter gives us all insight into the spirit she has as a fighter and athlete. On October 22, 2011 she was scheduled for an amateur Muay Thai fight in Las Vegas against Cong Wang who she had fought to a draw the previous year. Shortly before the fight, Tiffany’s trainer, Alexander Palma, received a call from Dennis Warner who told him that Wang had been injured while training and couldn’t make the fight. They did however have someone who could step in, Lena Ovchynnikova. Ovchynnikova was a WPKA World Champion, a four time World Muay Thai K-1 champion as well as a European MMA champion. And oh by the way she was a professional.

So with little notice, Tiffany had her first professional Muay Thai fight scheduled with a very formidable opponent. On paper Tiffany was a huge underdog. As one might have expected the fight turned out rather lopsided, however it was VanSoest who dominated. VanSoest’s aggressive and relentless fighting style took its toll. After absorbing heavy hands and knees for two rounds you could see Ovchynnikova losing her will to continue as the punishment broke her down. When the bell rang for the start of round three, Ovchynnikova could not answer and VanSoest had her first professional victory.

Over the past year and a half, in addition to getting her first professional Muay Thai fight, Tiffany has also started to compete in MMA. She’s been training in Brazilian JiuJitsu for a year and a half, and she’s also had the opportunity to train and spar with current Strikeforce champion Meisha Tate and former Strikeforce fighter Liz Carmouche. Currently Tiffany’s MMA record is 1-1. Notably, her first professional MMA fight against Tang “Don King” Jin was the very first female MMA fight to be held in mainland China.

So what is it that makes Tiffany such a talent in fighting? According to her trainer of the past five years, Alexander Palma it is that:

“’Tiffany is a very athletic individual and there is the potential inside her to one day/someday be considered the top female in her division, at the moment she is just beginning to understand many of the variables that it takes to be able to execute a successful campaign that will bring home the victory during battle. She still has so much to learn in this sport and it is only through facing tough adversaries like Jenna Castillo, Vivian Leung and Tiffany’s degree of commitment to her training will she be able to advance to the next level of her development as a fighter and to reach her true potential within the sport. She is still very young and I believe that in 2 – 3 years she should be close to reaching her full potential as a professional competitor in the sport of Muay Thai.”

Outside of the ring, Tiffany is also a full time student who will be graduating this May with a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology. She’s eager to complete her studies as it will allow her to train full time as a fighter. She is also continuing to build her own personal training business, Time Bomb Training. As Tiffany puts it “I spend so much time in the gym anyway, I might as well get paid for it”. With her degree in Kinesiology, her well documented career as an athlete and extraordinary drive, she’ll no doubt be successful in this endeavor as well.

While I’ve been aware of Tiffany for some time now, Battle in the Desert 5 this coming February 25th will be my first opportunity to see her fight in person. Only 22, she is just getting started with her professional fight career and I know this will only be the first of many times that I’ll have the pleasure of seeing her fight. Hmm…then again who knows, Variety reported that Paramount Pictures recently announced that they have begun developing a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie and well casting will begin soon.

Photo by Chad Hill

Photo by Chad Hill