amanda "mad dog" lino. mma powerhouse

Mixed Martial Arts fighter Amanda Lino, also known by her cage name “Mad Dog”,  has earned her stripes in women’s MMA, being one of the leaders in the world’s fastest growing sport.

She’s played an integral role in bringing women’s MMA fighting to the forefront while simultaneously putting South Africa on the map.
In just 6 pro fights (4-2) she earned herself the EFC flyweight and bantamweight titles, the latter of which she still holds.

Growing up in Ballito KZN with an identical twin sister and her older brother in a catholic household, Amanda had her sights set on the entertainment industry, studying sound engineering & trying her hand at being a DJ; getting booked at various clubs and house parties, she always had a soft spot for music.
But it wasn’t until her brother recognized her natural ability for professional fighting that she started training with him and began refining her talents which lead to her becoming a professional athlete.

Isaac Lediga chats with the MMA champ and gets the inside story on what it takes to be the best.
Isaac: How did you get the cage name “Mad Dog”?
Amanda:  When I first started MMA I used to train out of a gym called Bulldogs, my coach’s name was Bulldog and his training assistant was this really was small girl and as a joke we used to call her “Pug”.
We kind of were all sold on the idea of everyone at the gym having names based on dogs and it just became the culture of the gym and one day we’re just joking around I got the name Mad Dog and it really just stuck.

Isaac: Would you say Mad Dog shows through your personality and demeanour when you’re in the ring?
Amanda:  Definitely so, because when it’s show time, I’m a different person to what people normally perceive me as, and it’s a kind of persona that comes through when you’re competing and you’re in an alternate state of mind in the moment.
The name kind of grew on me and became my official cage name ever since, because I become Mad Dog as soon I get in that cage.

Isaac: So you wanted to be Radio DJ and studied sound engineering before getting into MMA fighting, how did that come about?
Amanda:  I got into sound engineering after high school.
I used to DJ for house parties back in the day, I’ve really enjoyed the entertainment industry.
I worked in a lot of nightclubs and I’m a huge fan of music. I think music is very powerful and gets you through a lot of stuff. And ever since I started doing interviews in the media, especially in radio, I really enjoyed that aspect of meeting people and conversations on air and radio kind of put all the things I loved about the industry into one.

I think it’s an amazing career and definitely something I would love to have done but like everything, your life kind of falls into place and you take on paths that you wouldn’t imagine.  I never thought I would go down this career path and MMA fighting came so naturally to me.

It’s one of those things where you didn’t realize how rewarding the journey could be and you fall into it and realize this was always meant to be.

Isaac: how was the transition from that to MMA?
Amanda:  I originally got into the gym to get fit.
I was overweight but I needed a challenge and wanted something different, and my brother was training MMA at the time.
He asked me to come along to one class and naturally when I was younger, I was quite naughty and I got into a lot of fights; which I was quite good at.
So I thought let me turn this negative into a positive and do something constructive with this. One day he came up to me and told me “hey you have a natural ability for this, you should really consider taking it more seriously” one thing lead to another, I was training every day and it really took off.

Isaac: How has MMA fighting changed your life?
Amanda:  When I first started doing Martial Arts I had just lost my dad, and it was just a very positive outlet for me – I needed that to get through.
I feel a lot of people when they experience loss or trauma tend to go off on the wrong path.
It can happen to anybody, but I wanted to make something out of that painful experience and use that to drive me and push me forward. Sometimes life gets too much and it’s too easy to play the victim and go down the wrong path, but I’ve always been someone who pushes boundaries and sometimes chose the hard way.
I’ve never seen myself as a quitter and I always strive to get better and give my all in everything I do. So I can always look back at it and realize that losing him was hard but I made something great out of it.

Isaac: in 2019 you were featured in the TV show the fighter, where aspiring female MMA fighters were competing to join you in the ring as an opponent. Would you ever do feature similar to that again?
Amanda:  Absolutely!  I think it’s a great way to not only expand the sport and give it more exposure, particularly for the female athletes.
It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world and I think there’s huge potential for exposure of South African sports and women in sport. It’s also a great way to meet other athletes and learn from them.
It would be great for South African athletes and athletes around world.

South Africa has a lot untapped talent that I think should be showcased.

Isaac: It’s definitely a great way to utilise your impact and influence.
Amanda:  Being the first female MMA title holder I think it’s important for other athletes to see where I come from and how I’ve grown from challenges thrown at me and made a success of a career. Professional MMA has only been around for a short amount of time and is growing very fast, and I think it gives hope to other athletes and I want to inspire them to keep doing what they love and stay devoted to their passion.
Even when I was younger I passed up opportunities to go overseas – I wanted to open the doors for South African athletes, female athletes especially. I wanted to show that you can be a female and have a solid career in MMA or in any sport.

Isaac: What is next for Amanda in the near future?
Amanda:  there is a lot in the works that unfortunately I cannot speak about yet, but what I can mention is that I’ve been very passionate about self-defence and self-defence initiatives and drives.

This is something that’s very important to me and always comes up when I think about how I can expand and do more with my career. There will be some really exciting stuff coming up this year with regards to self-defence. I think it’s very important for women to be and feel safe in this country, with a very alarming rate of violence and rape cases and that’s one of my main focuses to empower women.

Isaac: What advice would you give young aspiring female MMA fighters?
Amanda:  My advice would be to not limit yourself and don’t allow others to put limits on you.
I think society puts a lot of limits on women and more especially in sports.
I would also say as athletes we should always strive to push past those limits, focus on something you’re passionate about and run with it. Don’t rush to take big steps. Take it one day a time. Small steps pay off as time goes by and make the world of difference.

Amanda Lino’s career has gone from strength to strength.

Despite having to close down a gym that she co-owned in Ballito due to the Covid-19 pandemic she keeps her eye on the prize yet not forgetting to give back, with her sights set on doing self-defence initiatives for women in the country.

With South Africa being the rape capital of the world and the rising domestic violence cases, these initiatives will be instrumental in not only empowering women but by tackling a very issue this country has had to face with very limited resources and mismanaged power.

Being very aware of the world around her, she is passionate about breaking boundaries and empowering women in sports not to pander to the societal stereotypes, but to use that resistance to propel themselves forward.

 In a male dominated industry, female athletes often find themselves silenced and undermined throughout their sporting careers, with Serena Williams and Caster Semenya being two examples of such women.

Amanda “Mad Dog” Lino bares her teeth at the injustices faced by her peers in the male dominated world of Sports.

Having a late start to her MMA career she has made serious noise in the short time that she’s been professionally active!

Having been someone who always pushes boundaries and pushes past her threshold, her intensity and passion coupled with dedicating time and devotion to her training has propelled her forward      – further than many who entered the ring at an early age.

She now trains with her coach Rodney Van Der Vlugt of KO Fitness and resides in Jo’burg and has some incredibly exciting things planned for 2022!

 You can follow Amanda on Instagram @amanda_maddog_lino

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A credit  to the very talented Leticia Cox for these incredible images and our cover pic.

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