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Competing in mixed martial arts does not stop Minna Grusander from donating blood

The professional mixed martial artist considers blood donation a normal part of her life and donates blood whenever she can.

She went from taking a basic course in mixed martial arts in 2012 to winning the Finnish championship and the amateur world championship three years later, in 2015.  Today she is a professional fighter.

Minna Grusander's journey to the top in mixed martial arts has been fast and efficient – she has risen from beginner to competing for the world championship in just a few years. During the same time period, she also had her youngest child.

Grusander is currently signed to fight for Invicta FC, a professional mixed martial arts promotion organisation for female fighters. In the summer, she came close to winning the world championship, but lost narrowly based on judges' points. She could still have her revenge, as she has a six-match deal.

- My advantage as a fighter is that I have trained directly as a mixed martial artist, and as a result, I am equally strong in all areas. I can wrestle or fight upright for the entire match. A large number of mixed martial artists have a background in wrestling or kickboxing, and they have to learn new ways of fighting for mixed martial arts.

"When are you going to exercise?"

The daily life of a professional mixed martial artist is disciplined and scheduled. This suits Grusander.

- I like the fact that I am an athlete 24/7 and that staying active is part of the job. If I had to exercise in addition to working, it would be really difficult for me.

- My child once asked, "When are you going to exercise?" I explained that mommy's work is so active that there is no need to exercise on top of it, Grusander laughs.

Grusander fights in the atomweight division, i.e., women under 47.6 kilos. Getting fit for competing is part of the job and becomes a routine.

- I can't be an athlete only at the gym – it's a full-time job. After a match, I would love to take it a bit easier, but I have to stick to my routines. After all, sooner or later I have to be in fighting form again.

Matches give a rhythm to blood donation

Grusander has been a blood donor her whole adult life. She donated blood for the first time in her hometown Salo right after she turned 18. Her weight was just over the required 50 kg limit. The first donation went awry, when the sample bag – taken from all first-timers – burst and the blood spread everywhere. This incident did not scare Grusander; instead, it was the beginning of years of active blood donation.

She has continued to donate throughout her sports career, during both competing and training seasons. When necessary, she discusses the matter with her coaches.

- Donating blood has always agreed with me, even though I've been training hard. I donate blood 6 to 8 weeks before an event or soon after. I'm especially happy if my blood group, A positive, is in demand when I donate.

- Donating blood is a normal part of my life. It surprises me how many people have never even tried it. Shouldn't we all be blood donors?

Grusander has persuaded her husband to donate blood, and perhaps their children will follow suit. Grusander goes to donate blood at the Turku Blood Service Centre accompanied by her family. Her children are used to seeing needles and blood bags and wait patiently during the donation.

Aiming for world championship

The injuries suffered in mixed martial arts are mostly bruises and abrasions. On occasion, blood is also shed.

- As a blood donor, I hope not to be exposed to the opponent's blood. It may cause a temporary deferral.

Grusander also wants to avoid injuries and accidents because she is still on her way towards her goal: women's atomweight world championship. She came close to winning the title this summer and wants to try again.

- Fans speculate whether I have the chops to compete in the UFC (the Ultimate Fighting Championship promotions organisation) where the smallest weight class is the strawweight division for women weighing under 52.2 kg. However, I want to win the title in the Invicta ranks. I would rather be the atomweight champion than an average strawweight fighter. The next match for the title will hopefully take place next year.


Minna Grusander

Age: 29 years

Hometown: Turku

Family: husband, 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter

Major achievements in the sport: In amateur mixed martial arts, strawweight world champion in 2015 (under 52.2 kg) and flyweight Finnish champion (under 56.7 kg). As a professional so far, six wins and two losses. Currently fights in the ranks of Invicta FC.

Coaches and club: Aleksi Kainulainen and Sami Sakko, physical coach Ville rintala, mental coach Jaana Blom, Fnnfighter´s Gym

Other interests: experimenting with cooking and baking, pottering about in the kitchen, following hockey with her children.