Meet Team USA Member Fotini Kandris

By Dane McGuire, IMMAF U.S. Correspondent

New York-born South Carolinian Fotini Kandris represents a huge part of amateur MMA: balancing a “double life” in the pursuit of excellence in the sport. For her, that pursuit started from the ground up.

“The beginning was tough and it still is. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I had no martial arts experience…I had to start learning how to box, kickbox, wrestle, do Jiu-Jitsu and some Muay Thai. [Local pro and trainer Amos Collins] had me compete in boxing matches, kickboxing matches and Jiu-Jitsu matches before he would let me take an MMA fight. There is so much that goes into it that I ended up at Fitness Edge, which was the only local school to offer complete MMA training as well as training partners. At my first fight I faced a lot of challenges. If it could go wrong, it did—but my coaches were there for me and I came to fight and I came to win, same as today.

I lost that fight to a decision but felt I had won and was more determined than ever to fight again and get that win. Here I am a little over a year later with four wins and four losses and not a single fight I truly felt I lost and against all tough opponents and I would let have it any other way. Every fight I get just a little bit better and it shows me that all of the hours and all of the hard work is paying off. I strive to be the best martial artist I can be and progress is a beautiful thing.”

What may surprise many is that while Kandris is still fairly new to the sport, she is now competing for potential IMMAF gold at the age of 37. Still, don’t count her out.

“My generation has grit, strong will and determination. I have a lot of life experience with adversity and my toughest fights took place long before the cage. I am a fighter and a survivor and I carry that with me every time I fight. I don’t believe in underestimating anyone. I always have the upmost respect for my opponents and never judge because you just don’t know. That’s the crazy thing about this sport – anything can happen.”

Anything includes possibly going from waiting tables to being an IMMAF world champion after simply taking up the sport of MMA as a way to lose weight. After becoming a veteran of UMMAF affiliate Valor Fights where she went 2-0, she now finds herself on the biggest stage of the amateur level.

“It’s still a little unbelievable to me. It’s exciting because I am testing myself in one of the largest platforms available as well as dealing with the adversity of fighting in another country in a tournament setting. But those are the challenges I love to face and I am ready for them. Why do we do this if not to test ourselves? Every day though I think of how truly blessed I am to have this opportunity.”

Perhaps most importantly, the Greek known as “Tini Beast” hopes to one day call herself an Olympic MMA athlete.

“It is very exciting to be a part of something in its early stages. MMA belongs in the Olympics and I am proud to be a part of making that happen. The Olympics mean a lot to me because they are a part of my Greek heritage and are something I am in awe of and respect. Being a part of the Olympics and representing your country is one of the highest honors that I feel can be bestowed upon you. Olympic athletes are the best of the best, they are the hardest workers and people of whom I look up too.

To be able to compete in this tournament is humbling and to be able to represent my country fills me with pride and allows me to see this is much bigger than myself…We had to start from scratch but it was well worth it.”


The 2017 IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA take place November 12-19 in Manama, Bahrain.

The 2018 UMMAF National Championships will take place during the first week of February with registration already open on This next national event will also feature the first Youth MMA National Championship thanks to the United States Fight League, the UMMAF youth development arm, which is a requirement for any sport applying for the Olympics.

Follow the UMMAF and the action of the 2017 IMMAF World Championships on Twitter and Facebook!