By Tudor Leonte
Marta Pankiv’s impressive résumé in wrestling made her a formidable opponent for everyone in the senior flyweight division.
Pankiv is just one victory away from the gold medal in the 2022 IMMAF European Championships. While she was born in Ukraine, she is currently training in Galliate, Italy, where she’s training and teaching classes at Cardano Top Team with Luca Cardano. Before moving to Italy, Pankiv spent many years wrestling in her home country and winning a plethora of national titles.
“I won my first national title in Ukraine when I was 12. I wrestled for more than 10 years. At one point, I felt the necessity to test myself in another sport, and I picked MMA. When I took up MMA, I kept being submitted at first. I was always starting strong, bringing my opponents to the ground with ease, but then they managed to force me to tap. It was frustrating, but I also learned a lot from that feeling. Thanks to the help of my head coach, Luca, I adapted my wrestling background to my fighting style.”
Pankiv’s patience was rewarded with numerous victories across grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions. Now, she feels at ease inside the cage, where she recorded only wins. At the European Championships, Pankiv earned a spot in the flyweight finals after overcoming Sinéadh Ní Nualláin and Hanna Palmquist. On both occasions, the Ukrainian athlete scored inside-the-distance stoppages, proving that her hands can be as dangerous as her relentless style. While Pankiv had nothing but respect for Nuallain, she did not appreciate some things coming from Palmquist.
“I didn’t like how my opponent handled herself before and during our match. She didn’t want to shake hands and kept grabbing my shorts. Well, eventually, she lost. That’s karma. I hope next time she’ll behave better.”
Now, Pankiv is just focused on the senior flyweight final, where she will face France-born Mathilde Aschenbrenner.
“I know what I have to do. This is MMA. I’m ready, I’m always ready to compete. I’m always in the gym training with my team. I spent most of my training camp in Italy, polishing my grappling skills with BJJ black belt Rafael Torres Henrique. I also had the chance to train for a few days in Croatia with Pride Fighting Championships alum Zelg Galesic, one of the best striking coaches in Europe.”
Watch the 2022 IMMAF European Championships live and exclusively from Bella Italia Efa Village in Lignano Sabbiadoro (Italy) from 27 September and 1 October 2022 at immaf.tv.