MMA

From the UFC to the PFL World Championship Finals, Impa Kasanganay looks to ‘dominate, claim victory & move forward’

Impa Kasanganay has gone from being on the wrong end of a viral knockout to potentially becoming a world champion and one million dollars richer. The 29-year-old faces Josh Silveira in a light heavyweight contest at the PFL World Championship Finals at The Anthem in Washington D.C. on November 24. The event will air on ESPN+ PPV.

Impa turned pro in 2019. Joining the UFC that year, the Dana White’s Contender Series alum went 4-3 with the promotion and suffered a sensational a loss via spinning back kick to Joaquin Buckley which trended online.

After being released by the UFC and sustaining a loss at an Eagle FC event, things looked bleak. Then, he joined the PFL Challenger Series, which was an idea that PFL’s CEO told The Sporting News was “American Idol meets MMA.”

After beating Osama Elseady in the Challenger Series, Kasanganay has since earned three wins in the PFL regular season and playoffs. His last fight was a knockout win over Marthin Hamlet in August to advance to the PFL Finals.

Not many have adjusted well from the octagon to the SmartCage, but Kasanganay has, and he has nothing but praise for those who have helped him succeed.

“The transition from the octagon to the SmartCage, it’s been awesome for me,” Kasanganay told The Sporting News. “I see a fight as a fight, from the backyard into the street, on the mats, in the cage, in the SmartCage. For me, it’s go dominate, claim victory, and move forward. It’s a big testament to who I have around me and who I have around here (Kill Cliff). My coaches, teammates, trainers, friends, family.

WATCH: PFL World Championship Finals, exclusively on ESPN+

“Excellence is demanded of me, and that’s all I want to focus on. I don’t try to get caught up in where I’m at at the moment. I’m very grateful to be part of the PFL. At the same time, I know you could take away everything, and I’m still in the fight. So I have to go claim that victory. And that’s what I’m going to do.”

Kasanganay made himself known in the Contender Series by beating Kailan Hill but wasn’t immediately signed. He returned the next year and beat Anthony Adams to earn a contract. The Florida-born fighter mentioned that he learned what adjustments he needed to make in order to succeed and that White said he could be a champion one day.  

Competing in the octagon and the SmartCage, he becomes the latest fighter to make it to the finals after the Challenger Series. Given his experience, one would think that he wouldn’t have to compete in the Challenger Series. That’s just not how things work for Kasanganay. 

“When I had the opportunity to fight in the Challenger Series, some people were like, ‘You came from the UFC, why would you do the Challenger?’ Some people get the shoo-in. God’s got different plans for everybody’s life,” Kasanganay said. “I really did love the fact I got to compete in the Challenger Series because I got to see what the PFL is building from a different perspective. When I got to the Challenger Series, all I knew was… in football, it’s big-time players, big-time plays, and big-time games… That’s all prepared me to be the champion I’m going to be, and I am now. It’s no different than fighting on the Challenger Series than it is fighting in a championship fight. You have the extra rounds. You always fight to dominate and claim victory no matter what. 

MORE: Explaining PFL’s season, points system and playoff format

“Don’t get caught up on the Challenger Series. Don’t get caught up on the Contender Series. Don’t get caught up on [whether] you could earn this contract. Focus on what you need to focus on, and everything else will come with it. When I have different experiences, those tiny little experiences, it helps for the bigger ones. It’s like scaffolding to help me build to where I’m going to be on November 24 and waking up the new champion on the 25th.”

Kasanganay is a part of Kill Cliff FC, founded by Henri Hooft and Greg Jones. The Florida gym is close to American Top Team, where Silveira, his opponent, trains with father Conan. Silveira also participated in the Challenger Series and has won all three PFL contests this year via some form of finish. He defeated Ty Flores via TKO in August. 

This fight is considered a battle of short-range punchers. Former fighter and current commentator Dan Hardy told MMA News Kasanganay is Mike Tyson-like when it comes to “how he bumps himself around his opponent,” claiming he can knock out anyone. Kasanganay believes his Tyson-esque power and overall skills can will him to victory at the PFL World Championship Finals.

MORE: Ranked: The 25 best MMA fighters under the age of 25

“Josh is a good fighter. I respect him. I see me dominating him and imposing my will… Mike Tyson is an excellent fighter, so when you get your likeness compared to him, it’s an honor,” Kasanganay said. “How I see it going is me dominating from the get-go, fighting very intelligently, fighting with discipline, fighting with maturity. Listening to my coaches and all the instructions they give me and executing every moment of the fight. Going to burn the ships, take what’s mine, and move forward. From zero to zero, from the time the opening bell starts to the end. Finish him all the way to the end.”

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