Yana 'Foxy' Kunitskaya: Meet Russian MMA star set for action at UFC Wichita this weekend

Yana 'Foxy' Kunitskaya: Meet Russian MMA star set for action at UFC Wichita this weekend
Yana Kunitskaya is back in action this Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 4 in Wichita, Kansas for her third fight in the octagon. Here are seven things you need to know about the fighter known as 'Foxy'.

1. SHE COMES FROM SPORTING STOCK

It seemed obvious from an early age that Kunitskaya would become an athelete, with both of her parents doing pro sport.

Her mother Olga was a professional gymnast while her father Joseph was a professional skier. But rather than following her parents' exact sporting footsteps, Kunitskaya followed a slightly different path, taking up martial arts as youngster and embarking on a journey that continues to this day.

Initially, Kunitskaya trained in taekwondo before moving on to hand-to-hand combat tournaments, and then to boxing during her college years. She eventually transitioned to MMA as an 18-year-old and developed into one of Russia's top female mixed martial artists.

2. SHE'S A FIGHTER... AND A MOM

Kunitskaya is part of a small group of fighting mothers in the UFC, joining fellow athletes Cat Zingano, Michelle Waterson and Sara McMann as athletes who have continued their fighting careers after having children.

Initially, Kunitskaya retired after becoming a mother and moved into coaching. But after three years away from the cage, the urge to compete proved too big to ignore and Foxy announced her return to professional competition with all-female promotion Invicta Fighting Championships.

3. SHE'S A FORMER WORLD CHAMPION (AT THE THIRD ATTEMPT)

Kunitskaya fought for the bantamweight title in Invicta, eventually capturing the title at her third attempt.

The St. Petersburg native defeated American Tonya Evinger via a first-round armbar in her first title fight, but the bout was overturned to no-contest after Evinger appealed the result due to a questionable referee stoppage.

Kunitskaya lost the rematch, but in her next bout she captured the vacant title with a unanimous decision victory over Hawaiian Raquel Pa'aluhi to claim the Invicta FC bantamweight world title.

Shortly after that win, Kunitskaya was signed to the UFC.

4. SHE HAD A BAPTISM OF FIRE

Kunitskaya's UFC debut could not have been tougher.

The bantamweight world champion was handed a baptism of fire as she was asked to step up a weight class to featherweight to face all-conquering UFC featherweight world champion Cristiane 'Cyborg' Justino.

Kunitskaya took on the challenge, but was overwhelmed by the bigger, stronger world champion as she lost out by first-round TKO stoppage.


5. SHE BOUNCED BACK IN STYLE

After that defeat in her debut, Kunitskaya returned to her natural weight class of bantamweight and immediately claimed her first UFC victory.

The Russian faced Swedish fighter 'Elbow Queen' Lina Lansberg at UFC 229 in Las Vegas, where they shared the fight card with Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor.

And the pair battled all the way to the scorecards in an all-action three-round clash that Kunitskaya dominated from start to finish, she earned scores of 30-27 from all three judges to claim a shutout victory.


6. HER NICKNAME IS WELL-EARNED

Between fights, 'Foxy' Kunitskaya loves to share photos on her Instagram page with her 123,000 followers.

Her profile bio says she's "Breaking hearts, bones and stereotypes" and after a quick scroll through her pics, it's easy to see why.

But the name Kunitskaya itself also has animal part in it, as kunitsa is Russian for marten, the little, agile animal that is often confused with foxes.

7. SHE'S LOOKING FOR VICTORY THIS SATURDAY

Kunitskaya returns to action this Saturday in Wichita as she takes on fellow bantamweight contender Marion Reneau on the preliminary card.

Reneau is looking to bounce back into the win column after losing out to Zingano in her last fight, while Kunitskaya can claim back-to-back wins in the UFC with victory over 'The Belizean Bruiser' in Kansas.