PFL Finalist Impa Kasanganay Explains Why He Doesn’t Like “Performance” Being Used in MMA

2023 PFL light heavyweight finalist Impa Kasanganay never lost faith in his ability to make it to the highest level of MMA, despite setbacks in the UFC and later Eagle FC.

“No. I always believed this is where I was and who I was am. I just had to reorganize and get some things correct,” Kasanganay told Cageside Press in advance of the PFL Championship on November 24, 2023 at The Anthem in Washington, D.C.

“I never lost my faith, or God lost his faith in me. It was more so, I kind of just got lost on my path for a little while, or maybe I was still on the right path and that’s just where God had to bring me.”

That path took Kasanganay (14-3) through the Contender Series, where he won back-to-back fights, and the UFC, where he was shown the door after four fights.

“For me the opposite of faith is not doubt,” added Kasangany, who instead suggested that “I think you can have faith and then people still have some doubt. You can have doubt and still have something to look forward to. They’re not opposites, if anything, they compliment one another. For me, it was just, what do I need to do with my life in that time to be organized, and what sacrifices do I need to make that I’m not seeing here, that are going to allow me to realize what I see within myself?”

“It was more so a reflection of what was going on with my life, where I didn’t put things together the way I needed to, and it became a blueprint for how I moved forward in the future. Like, I won that Eagle fight even though they said I lost, and that was an overall consensus, not from myself only.”

Impa Kasanganay’s lone Eagle FC appearance was a split decision loss to Raimond Magomedaliev, and while it will stand as a loss on his official record, there was an argument for the fight going the other way. As for his UFC run, “being released from the UFC at that time, the challenging thing about it was just saying like ‘man I put a lot of work in to get there,’ but wondering why I still wasn’t [there],” admitted Kasanganay.

“Overall under the banner, 4-2 including the Contender Series wins, but 2-2 in the UFC itself. That was one of those things where I knew that I was better, I knew there was so much more I could show and do, and I was going to make that happen no matter what. That’s when it became an eye-opening experience. If anything, it actually became one of those things I look back on, I’m like, ‘thank you that happened.’ Even at that time, because it really made me make the challenging decisions to say ‘hey, no matter what, I’m going to be a champion some day soon.”

Taking the long road to success, and this year’s PFL championship, where not just a world title but a million dollars hangs in the balance, wasn’t the worst journey, however. In fact, Impa Kasanganay sees a silver lining.

“Taking the narrow path is definitely much more rewarding for me. I won’t say I’m an old school guy, it’s more like, I do like that fact that I get to earn something, and it’s not based on my popularity,” he stated. “Or I get to earn my popularity or whatever God has for me, and I get to earn my success and all that’s come with it.”

One thing Impa Kasanganay doesn’t like seeing in MMA is the word “performance” applied to what fighters do. As much as it’s instilled in the vernacular of the sport (think the UFC’s Performance of the Night bonuses), Impa doesn’t see himself as performing when he fights.

“It’s entertainment for those who watch it, and I respect it. As a fighter it’s not entertainment, I’m going in there to do my job. Nobody’s cheering on the accountant, ‘oh you performed today and got the books in order!'” he pointed out. “Yeah somebody’s going to congratulate you, that you maybe fixed something in the company, saved the company some money. Performing to me, it’s say, for the entertainers who choose to be entertainers. Who choose to be musicians, artists, public speakers. No matter how they do it.”

“That to me is a performance.”

Kasanganay knows what he’s talking about — through high school and all the way to the end of college, he studied music. And he believes that if you focus on your performance in fighting, “we take away the purity of it. It’s like ‘I’m going out there to perform’ so you change the way you are, the reflection of your spirit, of who you are, to go perform and see what people like. And then your validation comes from what the crowd says— if the crowd says ‘boo’ or the crowd says ‘yay.’ And that’s not cool to me, because that’s not what it’s about.”

“When you go to battle, you go to war, you go there to take over, dominate, claim, and move forward. And fighting to me is not a sport or some kind of performance, because you’re taking away somebody’s life points; you’re also sacrificing your life points as well. When I do accounting nobody’s hitting me in the head with a computer. When I’m fighting, somebody’s trying to kick me in the head, elbow my face, I’ve been unconscious before. That stuff’s not healthy. That’s not a performance.”

A performance will inspire people and evoke emotion, Kasanganay allowed. But fighting leaves lasting scars, in essence. “With fighting, you take those things with you. The broken rib, the broken finger, the torn knee, the hurt, the pain. There’s a lot of difference. Maybe people who do acting and stuff like that do too, but they’re performing and they get to go into another character. Fighting, you’re not going into another character even though they say it’s an alter ego, you’re fighting in who you are, whatever— it’s actually the truth of who you are. And that’s not a performance to me. That’s going into battle.”

Impa Kasanganay next goes into battle with American Top Team’s Josh Silveira. There’s an old rivalry there in terms of gyms, between ATT and Kill Cliff FC, Kasanganay’s own team, though for him, the rivalry doesn’t matter. Instead, he simply sees that Silveira has been making improvements, and is on a good path.

That having been said, “I believe we were destined to meet, and I’m going to take him out, obtain this victory and move forward,” he added.

Watch our full interview with 2023 light heavyweight finalist Impa Kasanganay above.