Over the years, the Pacific Northwest of the US has become a hotbed for several of MMA’s hottest up and coming fighters. With the area already having had several athletes burst onto the scene as legitimate future contenders, there’s always more waiting in the wings. Vancouver’s Lisa Verzosa looks to be the next to of that bunch to really catapult herself onto the radars of the community.
Formerly known as Lisa “The Strangler” Spangler, Verzosa has since undergone a name change after becoming the bride of her husband Mark in August 2019. Now, the 24-year old is proudly known as the “Battle Angel.” A nickname that she finds more fitting than her previous as she has yet to pick up any victories in her still-young career via choke.
As for the “Battle Angel” moniker, it comes from the 1990s manga series which was recently turned into a feature film as of 2019, Alita: Battle Angel. Verzosa found herself connecting with the character and her spirit for fighting. Therefore the nickname was adopted.
At age 18, Verzosa’s MMA journey began as she started her amateur career which concluded with her having a record of 9-1. This spanned from 2014 to 2017 and she would eventually turn pro in May 2018.
With the plan always set to be 10 fights as an amateur, the self-admittedly “kind of nerdy” Verzosa was already pretty athletic prior to getting into the face-punching business.
“I actually played football growing up,” Verzosa told MyMMANews, “I started in high school as a middle linebacker. I played football for about 10 years and then I did wrestling after that in high school. So it was just kind of a natural progression.
“Before he was my husband, Mark, he was my strength and conditioning coach and he told me about [MMA] and kind of got me into it. I didn’t really think it was a viable career until like, halfway through my senior year, but they’d been kind of picking at me for a while.”
With many great gyms to choose from in the states of Washington and Oregon, the undefeated bantamweight currently calls The Base Vancouver her training home. Initially, she spent some time down at Gracie Barra Portland – now known as American Top Team: Portland. A gym that fighters such as Ricky Simon, Chael Sonnen, Cris “Sunshine” Lencioni, Austin Vanderford and Jake Smith among many others fight out of.
Feeling the need for change over time, Verzosa made the move to The Base and she also has done some training over in Thailand with Tiger Muay Thai to work on her Muay Thai and overall game. As she currently wraps up the biggest training camp of her life, it will have been one that saw her make the trip to Asia for a second time. The first time coming five years prior.
“It’s nice to kind of get away from the normal every day of your life,” she expressed. “It’s just a different intensity there. Just a different mentality altogether.”
Since going pro, Verzosa has been a picture of perfection inside the cage as she holds a record of 5-0. Despite all five wins coming by way of decision, she’s put on a show each and every time out and lived up to that new nickname of hers.
Because of this, she’s continually gained more experience in a shorter amount of time than most. Progressing quite quickly for only two years in the sport professionally and being just 24-years-old, Verzosa’s next fight will be for a major world title.
So is this all happening at about the speed that the Vancouver native anticipated?
“I’d say a little bit of both, [yes and no],” Verzosa answered in response to if it’s been faster than expected, “I mean because in the grand scheme of things, I have had 15 fights now. But as far as my pro career goes, it’s still a little early but I still feel like I’m ready for it.
“It’s probably about 50/50, really [when it comes to MMA being more mental vs. physical]. I mean, I try not to think too much in my fights – just try to listen to my coaches and be present at the time.”
At Invicta FC’s Phoenix Series 3 this Friday night, March 6, Verzosa challenges for the vacant 135-pound crown. Standing across from her will be the resurgent alum of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 28, Lithuania’s Julija Stoliarenko.
Although still limited with her professional experience, this won’t actually be Verzosa’s first time dueling it out with an experienced veteran of TUF. At Invicta FC 35 in June 2019, the “Battle Angel” battered former Invicta title challenger and TUF 28 contestant Katharina Lehner to earn a unanimous decision.
With all but one of her pro wins coming under the Invicta banner, the former “Strangler” believes her Invicta experience has only increased her progression levels. Which, when considering all other aforementioned factors, it feels like a reasonable assessment.
“I think so,” she said, “Especially since [Invicta] have all the media day and all of that. It’s kind of more experience for that aspect of it. I’m not really the best at interviews. I feel like every time I do it I get a little bit better. I’ve never enjoyed public speaking at all but I’m starting to get better.
“I feel like in the past, I just let my coaches do [the studying] most of the time. But for the past couple of fights, I have actually watched it alongside them. At the same time, you can’t focus too much on what they’re going to do because sometimes I’ve done that in the past … I think a few fights ago, I thought the person was gonna grapple, and then they just didn’t. So you just have to adapt in the middle of the fight. So I try to balance it but it’s nice to be aware of what they’re capable of, I guess.”
In the 135-pound bantamweight class, it’s a division that has kind of begun to lack some clear future stars. However, among the few is Verzosa and by capturing some gold she’ll be able to show people exactly why she is a promising one to watch.
There are nerves for every fight, but they just make her train even harder. Verzosa is excited for her crack at a world title and as 2020 rolls on, she has some goals in mind. As soft-spoken as she outside of the cage, she couldn’t be any louder inside of it.
“Well, I’d like to have a belt,” she said with a laugh. “I’m hoping the UFC calls but I like to focus on whatever fight is happening at the moment. I don’t try to think too much ahead because some people will think about where they want to be in a year or two, a few months from now and forget about what’s happening now. So, right now I’m just focusing on this fight.”