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Janet Todd overcame imposter syndrome en route to winning ONE Championship kickboxing crown

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Janet Todd was thrust right into the fire in her ONE Championship debut and now, having emerged from the crucible, she can admit she felt the heat.

On Wednesday, the reigning ONE atomweight kickboxing champion fights Anne Line Hogstad in a co-main event muay Thai bout at ONE on TNT 2 in Singapore. It will be one of the most high-profile bouts of Todd’s fighting career, which began 12 years ago and has since spanned four continents.

Todd, 35, is well-aware of the increased exposure and expectations that come with having a title around her waist and a fight set to be broadcast on U.S. network television, but unlike in her first appearance for ONE, she’s not doubting herself.

Back in February 2019, Todd was brought in to face Stamp Fairtex, an emerging star that has found success in ONE’s kickboxing, muay Thai, and MMA divisions. At the time, Stamp was the ONE muay Thai atomweight champion and she successfully defended her title with a unanimous decision over Todd.

“My mentality was a little bit different,” Todd told MMA Fighting in a recent interview. “It was a title fight, so I just felt like maybe there was a little bit of an imposter syndrome. Like I might not deserve this. But after that fight, it went all five rounds, I felt like I started getting my rhythm. It was too late, but I started getting my rhythm in the fifth round.

“That kind of increased my confidence and let me know that I belong in there. I think that’s what made the big mental shift, that competition.”

Todd and Stamp crossed paths again one year later, this time in a kickboxing championship bout. At that point, Todd had carved out a niche of her own, defeating three straight opponents to set up the Stamp rematch.

They went the distance again, but this time it was Todd who emerged with a split decision victory and her first-ever world championship. She was also the first fighter to hand Stamp a defeat in ONE.

Todd points to her determination to not allow Stamp to dictate the action of their second fight as a key reason why she was able to change the outcome. The Japanese-American fighter’s mental approach couldn’t have been stronger, especially since she was coming off of a massive knockout of Ekaterina Vandaryeva at ONE Championship: Century in Tokyo.

After competing everywhere from Canada to Poland to Peru, Todd found herself fighting in her ancestral home for the first time, with plenty of friends and family in attendance. She commemorated the moment with a highlight-reel knockout.

“I was excited about it because actually I hadn’t gotten a knockout before, I’d always gotten TKOs, so that was my first head kick knockout,” Todd said. “So that was exciting for me, personally. And it was also something that we’d drilled before and I just saw that opportunity and was super excited that it landed. … I did notice that the clip got tossed around. I guess it helps get my name out there too.”

Todd has yet to defend her kickboxing title. After defeating Stamp, she scored a unanimous decision win over Alma Juniku in a muay Thai bout and again competes in that discipline on Wednesday. It’s not exactly clear what the stakes are for Todd going forward, with ONE atomweight muay Thai champion Allycia Hellen Rodrigues currently on the sidelines due to pregnancy and a Stamp trilogy out of the question until Stamp finishes her business in an upcoming MMA atomweight grand prix.

Perhaps a win keeps Todd in line for an interim or vacant title opportunity, but for now she’s just thrilled to be involved in the rare muay Thai bout that will air at a reasonable time in the U.S (thought it will be on tape delay).

“I’m excited,” Todd said. “In the western area, the UFC is very popular, so people tend to tune in to that. Being on prime time, TNT, and being able to not only show MMA, but muay Thai kickboxing and the top athletes in ONE Championship, and showing what we’re capable of, I hope that brings us a lot more fans in the western hemisphere and brings more popularity to ONE Championship over here.

“I really do value what ONE Championship brings with regards to respect and unity, which I don’t think is something UFC necessarily does. I think it’s helping all of us athletes progress and I hope it’s something that the audience sees and sees us as role models as they pursue their passion in martial arts.”

Having a greater platform is especially important for Todd as one of several fighters featured in ONE’s recently released promo addressing the rise of hate crimes against Asian-Americans.

“I think it’s important to be able to send out that message and I feel like I’m perfectly aligned with the movement that ONE Championship has with stopping Asian hate,” Todd said. “It’s not only that, there’s just been a lot of division back here at home, so sending that message of compassion and just being nice to people, I’m glad I’m part of a promotion that believes in that and likes to send that message too.”

Growing up in a mixed-race household in Hermosa Beach, Calif., Todd says she was fortunate not to deal with any major prejudice in her community, describing it as “a cute, little town.” If anything, she was mostly concerned about feeling like she belonged when she was bringing bento boxes to lunch while the other kids usually showed up with sandwiches and bag lunches.

Now that she’s older—and a world champion—she understands how important it is to have strong role models and she’s willing to take on that responsibility herself.

“I feel it now,” Todd said. “I feel like I want to be a good role model, even before ONE Championship, just being a good role model to my teammates. I started this sport late, so I’m the older one in the crowd (laughs).

“Not to associate age with role models, but I always want to set a good example in terms of my values and my work ethic and such. As my platform grew by being on ONE Championship, yeah, I feel like have some sort of responsibility to make sure that I’m setting a good example.”

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The Blast kickboxing gym thrives in spite of pandemic – madison365.com

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Thirteen-year-old Jorden Joseph trained with The Blast for two years before becoming the Best Junior North American Muay Thai fighter in his weight class. (Photo supplied)

Even during lock-down, The Blast (Body Life Achievement Sports Training) gym owner Mark “ShaH” Evans excelled at what he does best: mentoring and coaching. 

The gym, located at 703 Post Road in south Madison, had been shut down to the public for nearly a year and only just started children’s classes last week. Evans has been able to coach one-on-one with the roughly 20 students who intend to compete at amateur and professional levels.

“That’s where I get to really excel and do what I do best, which is focus on the psychology,” he told Madison365. “Everybody wants to perfect something. You start something new, you want to perfect it, you want to get it overnight and I’m reminding them that you’re not going to get this overnight. The same way you would focus on planting a tree. If you plant a tree, you don’t expect that tree to grow the full size overnight. So stop trying to focus on being perfect today and just be better than what you were yesterday.”

One of those students that he has coached for the past year is Luke “The Chef” Lessei, who will compete in a national pay-per-view Triumphant competition on June 12 in Miami.

Lessei travels the 90 minutes from Dubuque, Iowa, at least once a week to train with Evans. The 24-year-old fighter still has a full-time job, a wife and young child. Evans said Lessei is so good, he has the ability to handpick his trainers, and about a year ago, he chose Evans. 

“Luke is insane,” Evans said. “They call him ‘The Chef’ because he’s always cooking something up. So with the techniques that we come up with in the gym we give it a name. Like his last fight he had — a Muay Thai fight in the cage — he had a jumping side-kick that we call the ‘pepperchini.’” 

Luke Lessei. Photo supplied.

The gym offers Muay Thai Kickboxing, Cardio Kickboxing and self-defense for group and children’s classes. Evans, who is also a nationally known booking agent for musicians and co-founded a record label, took over The Blast in 2018 as the owner. At that time it had five students; within a year he brought that number up to 30. 

“I was able to build a really strong foundation and strong family. I really treat this place like it’s my home,” he said. “Every one of my students are family members.”

Although the owner, Evans isn’t the lead instructor at the gym — that’s Herma Hoda. But as a coach, and as a person who manages people, Evans finds continued success with his students. 

He has coached for three title fights at the Thai Boxing Association tournament, one MMA title for now-pro fighter Devin Seitz, and has coached for three other title fights. When he brings a group of students to the annual Muay Thai Competition in Dubuque that brings in upwards of 800 fighters each year, The Blast always comes home with a winning belt. 

Evans said he doesn’t consider himself the best coach, but there are things that set him apart. 

“I’m constantly learning. And because I’m kind of constantly learning, I feel like I have to share that knowledge with my students. And then, because I’m sharing this knowledge, we’re all learning. And because we’re all learning there’s trust built, there’s a family built. There’s a foundation built within that. To me, a great teacher is always a student.”

In his spare time, Evans said he is always researching — researching martial arts but also reading Socrates, Malcolm Gladwell or Robert Green. 

“If you ask my fighters, they better say their students are not fighters because their job is to learn. Not just training for a fight, but to learn consistently all the time because life is the ultimate fighter,” he said. 

Evans, however, still coaches a physical sport. He said he doesn’t believe in constant sparring and often focuses more coaching time on cardio and endurance. When training with Evans, his students sometimes joke that he is seeking death.  

“I have to get you ready to the point where you aren’t going to fear anything and you’ve ‘sought death’ so often that the fight is going to seem easy in comparison,” he said. “And then if you’re freaking out in your mind in between rounds, it’s like, ‘Hey, who ran those sprints? Who did those 10-minute rounds? Who did all this training?’”

Yet, even in an aggressive sport like Muay Thai kickboxing, Evans said he still teaches his students to spread love, kindness and always do something you are passionate about. 

“So win, lose, or draw what they went through, what they put themselves through — the discipline they created and being able to control their mind and their emotions — no one could take that away,” he said.

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Cardio Kickboxing Class Followed By Beer Flights at a Londonderry, NH, Brewery – wokq.com

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Joining the New Hampshire Brewed Facebook group was one of the more solid decisions I’ve made in my life. I am discovering so many breweries in our fine state. Like Pipe Dream Brewing in Londonderry!

Pipe Dream Brewing is a Veteran Owned brewery with West Coast inspired beer. They carry a wide selection of beers; sours, blondes, IPAs and everything in between. Their beers also have really fun names which always make me giggle such as “Adult Nuggets IPA” and “What up, Beaches? IPA”.

It has been so much fun to see the creations they have released over the past year; everything from Cinnamon Toast Crunch Stout, Pumpkin French Toast beer and, my personal favorite, Unicorn Poop Sour Ale. I am drawn to the beautiful can and hilarious art. And I also tried it and it was like tasting a rainbow!

Pipe Dream Brewing via Facebook

When I saw that two of my favorite things are combining forces for an event, I was like OH HELL YES, count me in! Kick it by Eliza and Pipe Dream Brewing are hosting a Kick It + Sip it event at the brewery in Londonderry on Sunday, June 13th.

Kick it by Eliza is a 13 round music driven cardio kickboxing class. Being a member of the Kick it virtual platform has preserved my sanity during this pandemic. This strong and inspiring squad of women call themselves the “Fempire” and I am honored to be a part of the gang.

So come sweat and sip beer with us! AJ Luchetti is teaching the class and everything you need to know is on the Facebook Invite. Get ready to KICK IT!

LOOK: Here are the 50 best beach towns in America

Every beach town has its share of pluses and minuses, which got us thinking about what makes a beach town the best one to live in. To find out, Stacker consulted data from WalletHub, released June 17, 2020, that compares U.S. beach towns. Ratings are based on six categories: affordability, weather, safety, economy, education and health, and quality of life. The cities ranged in population from 10,000 to 150,000, but they had to have at least one local beach listed on TripAdvisor. Read the full methodology here. From those rankings, we selected the top 50. Readers who live in California and Florida will be unsurprised to learn that many of towns featured here are in one of those two states.

Keep reading to see if your favorite beach town made the cut.

READ ON: See the States Where People Live the Longest

Read on to learn the average life expectancy in each state.

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Bhullar banks on boxing versus Vera's kickboxing

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Arjan Bhullar and Brandon Vera (ONE Championship)

Arjan Bhullar is confident to showcase his boxing prowess to counter Brandon Vera’s kickboxing ahead of their world heavyweight title bout in ONE: Dangal at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday, May 15.

Bhullar, who is mostly known for his deep wrestling background, is planning to use both of his strong points to keep Vera at bay.

Bhullar, a Canadian of Indian descent, knows too well how dangerous it would be for him once Vera keeps the range with “very accurate and powerful” kicks since the Filipino-American champion improved his arsenal under the tutelage of coach Henri Hooft in Sanford MMA.

READ: Bhullar a dangerous opponent, says Vera

“For us, our boxing is better. My kickboxing is sharp as well but I just haven’t had the chance to show it – how I deal with that and how I meet someone who does that,” said Bhullar, who holds a 10-1 mixed martial arts record. “This would be a good opportunity for that. My clinch work is better than his and I will show that.

“But more than anything, skills aside, I say we are equal all the way around. My insights have separated me from him. I will go further and deeper than he will, and that is where I draw a lot of my confidence from.”

READ: Bhullar all set vs Vera

The 34-year-old Bhullar, a former Olympic wrestler and UFC fighter, scored a unanimous decision victory against Cerilli last October 2019 for his promotional debut in ONE: Century II.

Bhullar displayed the versatile fighter in him after testing the waters first in wrestling before landing crisp punches in the latter parts of the match.

READ: Bhullar seeks to become first Indian MMA champion, vows to dethrone Vera

Vera (16-8), 43, for his part last saw action in the same event and lost to rival-turned-training partner Aung La N Sang, a former two-division world champion.

Vera and Bhullar were initially scheduled to fight in May last year at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City but the title bout was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ: Vera out to defy age vs Bhullar



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