Sarah “Soulja” Payant another one of HYPE’s sponsored fighters and a real star on the rise! I wanted to take this time to reach out as I do with everyone I’ve worked with and get to know Sarah, not just as a fighter but as a person. Understanding her upbringing and her rise into the MMA community.
Jason Przewoznik: Sarah! I’m glad we’re finally getting the ball rolling as I’ve been completely slacking a bit on getting this one going! I’d like to start off with our basic introduction question and letting us get to know you and where you’ve come from. Care to share a bit about who Sarah Payant and the path the led you into a remarkable woman and MMA star?!
Sarah Payant: Growing up I was always involved in sports. I started playing softball at the age of 4. During elementary school I think I changed schools just about every year until 7th grade. I easily got along with most people so always being the new kid didn’t bother me. All my sisters and my brother were also involved in some type of sport so being athletic kinda ran in the family. As I got older I focused mostly on softball. I remember trying soccer, basketball and volleyball but softball was my passion. I played for 16 years and was a part of the first female sports team to win a state championship in my high schools history. I got to travel around and play in some of the most well known tournaments on the east coast. Growing up my Dad was always my coach and my mom came to every game so it was a family thing for us. After graduating high school, there was no real career in softball for me, so i had to move on to something even better and thats what later led me to find MMA.
JP: Awesome Sarah! I completely understand the moving every year. We’re actually quite lucky – we get to experience all different types of people and like you, I’ve gotten along with everyone; so it made it very interesting! …Great, so after you completed high school you dove right into MMA? Or how did you ultimately get involved?
SP: Well I have been involved in MMA for almost 3 years now. I first got into the sport when my local gym offered a cardio kickboxing class. As I did kickboxing more and more it lead me to Muay Thai and I fell in love with the sport! I wanted to get more involved so my Muay Thai instructor at the time pointed me in the direction of Team Ravenous MMA. From there I got into BJJ which was something totally new for me. I have since started training with Gladiator BJJ out of West Springfield, MA. When I first started I knew that this was a newer sport to begin with, so I had a feeling that to succeed in this as a female was gonnna be a challenge.
JP: …Although it is upsetting; it is definitely a challenge for females to advance in an MMA career over males – especially with promotions like the UFC not allowing female fights [yet?]. …But what I find most interesting about the female fighters is their drive to succeed and you definitely prove you have that; as well as a thirst for adventure! You started out with kickboxing for cardio and Muy Thai, but then branched into BJJ – I’m assuming you came in there with a strength for striking; how do you feel that you’ve balanced out with your overall ability in Mixed Martial Arts?
SP: It was funny because in the beginning I favored my striking skills and that was my favorite part of the game. Over time it has seemed to completely reverse; I love No-Gi Grappling and I think it’s one of my strongest parts of my game.
JP: Some people do learn to love BJJ and the technicality over brute strength and speed (except Rampage Jackson) … Goes to show that you can’t knock any form of martial arts into you really dedicate yourself to it. Now you’ve been involved in MMA for about 3 years and seem to have a decently rounded training background in this short period of time; what’s your current MMA record and what weight do you fight at?
SP: My ammy record is 0-2, but that will be turned around very soon as I have some major fight plans this year. My first fight was at 135 and that class was too big for me. It was my first fight so I didn’t know how much weight I would be able to cut. I had a few fights fall through this past summer which was a disappointment as well. I currently fight at 125 and I feel great at this weight!
JP: No shame in losses; as I tell everyone with at least one loss. Your losses are your biggest instructors. They teach you what you need to work on and allow you to know things such as weights you may feel comfortable at and all the other great things in the game! Amateur fights help prepare you for going pro and really learning how to advance your game to the next level – and that’s always a great tool. …In those two losses; is there anything else you may have learned or any holes you may have felt in your game, besides the weight drop?
SP: Ohh yea defiantly! I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’ve worked on so much of my entire fight game that I think I’m a completely different fighter that I was even from a month ago. I have definitely made a lot of progress in the past 6 months especially.
JP: Care to share anything about whats changed in your training or keep it a secret until you demolish your next opponent? Haha
SP: I dont wanna give too much away! (lol) …But you can be sure you will see a whole other side of me as a fighter in the coming months!
JP: Haha nice. Sarah “The Secret Weapon” Payant! …Well, actually… Your nickname is ‘Soulja’, which from what I believe relates to your experience [and probably more behind it as well] in the Army. Care to share a bit about your nickname and how it came to be?
SP: One day I was trainin in the gym and we were just talkin about me being in the army. The conversation led to me sayin how I wanted a fight name before my first. …I was joking with my coach; telling him it had to be a good one! Someone just called me The Soulja… and it stuck from there. Haha.
JP: (Haha) Well that’s how nicknames work! That’s great… Slightly curious; do you think BEING in the army sparked you into competitive combat at all?
SP: I think being in the army definitely added interest for me gettin into MMA. It made me want to find something else just as exciting to do!
JP: So you seem like a girl who’s looking for excitement and the world of Mixed Martial Arts definitely provides that. You’re still starting out and starting to advance in your career; where do you see yourself in 5 years from now – will you still be fighting? Will you be holding a belt at any of the large promotions?
SP: Well, 5 years is a long time! I hope to fight for the women’s 125 lb. ammy belt this year and then I look to go pro in the near future. So, I’ll see where that takes me.
JP: True; do you have any expectancy either time-frame or fight-amount wise that you’d wish to turn pro? Or are you looking to see how your training and improvements go?
SP: Yea, I take it one fight at a time. I’m in no rush so I’ll go pro when I feel ready.
JP: Completely understand that. There’s definitely no rush it’s all a learning experience and a great lifestyle. How often do you currently train? …And do you have any idea of when your next fight will be?
SP: Yes I’m fighting in April. I train full-time! I’m in the gym everyday including the weekends. No time to slack! (Haha)
JP: A warrior! Haha – ‘Cause she’s a SOULJA! … Now moving on as everyone should know, HYPE Xtreme has become our official clothing sponsor; and they are also sponsoring you through your career; How did this come to be and how do they treat you over there?
SP: Haha, Yep! Hype has been great to me! They support their fighters with everything possible. I’m happy to work with HYPE Xtreme!
JP: Definitely agree with that; Dave knows how to take care of his fighters and stays involved with everything. Well as we wind down to the end; I want to ask if there is anything you’d like to say to aspiring fighters; anything you’ve learned on your path that you’d like to share?
SP: The beginning of my fighting career has not been easy, but I just want to encourage other fighters that if you keep pushing towards your goals, everything will eventually fall into place. This sport pushes you to your limits, but don’t give up!
JP: Great Sarah! Thank you! Now we get to the fun stuff! It’s become our trademark question; which really shows a lot of character in fighters… and sometimes pretty funny! Who is your favorite super hero and why?
SP: (lol). It sounds cliche, but I’d have to say Wonder Woman. She had super strength, speed, and stamina; these are key things fighters need in the cage as well!
JP: Haha. Yes, maybe a little cliche, but very true! …Well Sarah it’s been a pleasure and I’m sure we’ll be doing more work together in the future!! Before I let you get back to training… Do you have any shoutouts or special thanks you’d like to give?
SP: Just want to thank all the people that always come out to support me…my family especially! I also wouldn’t be here without my coaches and training partners. Thank u!!
JP: Awesome Sarah!! Again, I appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us. HYPE is our official clothing sponsor; so all of their fighters will be strongly supported by us; I look forward to working with you in the future as well as your career progresses!!
SP: Thank u very much!!