He coached hockey and she was a graphic artist. Now the Mazany siblings of Anchorage are MMA fighters.

In their previous lives, Dave Mazany was a hockey coach at Bartlett High and Gina Mazany was a graphic designer in Seattle.

Then each of them ducked into phone booths to do the Clark Kent-becomes-Superman thing, and ever since they've fought the never-ending battle that constitutes life as MMA fighters.

The Anchorage siblings — Dave graduated from Bartlett in 2002, Gina in 2007 — live and train in Las Vegas, but their success in mixed martial arts has taken them all over the world.

Gina "Danger" Mazany, 29, is 5-1 as a pro and 1-1 in the Ultimate Fighting Championships. A bantamweight, she returns to the octagon Sunday morning for UFC Fight Night 130 in Liverpool, England.

Dave "The Pain Train" Mazany, 34, is a star in South Africa, where he is the former lightweight champion and current No. 1 lightweight contender in that nation's Extreme Fighting Championships.

He is 14-6 as a pro and 5-1 in his last six fights, all of them in South Africa, where he has developed a sizable fan base.

"It's really surreal because my brother is literally a celebrity there," Gina said. "We go to South Africa and we'll be walking down the street and people will stop us and want pictures and everything else. It's very bizarre."


Growing up in Anchorage, where their dad, Mike, worked construction and their mom, Desiree, worked for Alascom, the Mazany kids did all kinds of sports. Gina was a figure skater, Dave played hockey and ran track and cross country, and their brother Matt played football.

Dave wrestled for one season at Wendler Middle School and said he often uses wrestling techniques learned long ago when he fights.

Gina thinks figure skating helped make her a good kicker, and her two older brothers helped make her tough.

"My brothers always had a big group of friends that would pick on me," she said.

As kids, the Mazanys were big fans of pro wrestling, which perhaps paved their way to the fight game. Dave and Gina became fighters — both got their start in Anchorage's AFC — and until recently Matt worked as a writer for the WWE.

"None of us took the safe route," Dave said.

Gina did for a while.

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After getting her college degree, she got a good-paying job in Seattle as a graphic designer for a Facebook gaming company. She stuck with fighting as best she could.

"Then I decided it was too much to try to train and fight and work all at the same time, so (three) years ago I sold all my stuff, packed everything I could fit in my Ford Focus and cruised on down to Vegas."

She was 4-0 as a fighter at the time, with two of her wins coming in the AFC. She got her big break last year in February when she agreed to a short-notice UFC fight against Sara McCann — a big-name fighter and an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling.

She had to lose 27 pounds in 16 days, something she accomplished by logging more than 90 miles on a treadmill and living on a diet of asparagus, sweet potatoes and cod.

"It was pretty awful," she said. "Super unhealthy. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone."

McCann beat Mazany with a first-round submission, but Mazany didn't come away emptyhanded — she was given a four-fight contract with the UFC, which is the NFL of the MMA world.

Gina's first taste of combat sports came as a boxer at Anchorage's Thursday Night at the Fights when she was 18.

"I got the crap beat out of me, but it made me realize I wanted to pursue it," she said. "I was back in the gym the next day."

When Gina decided to move to Las Vegas three years ago, her brother was already an established fighter training at Xtreme Couture, a highly regarded MMA gym where Gina also trains.


Nine years ago, Dave was living in Anchorage, where he worked in construction and was a substitute teacher and an assistant hockey coach at Bartlett.

"At the same time, I was fighting," he said. "I got laid off from my (construction) job and I had nine grand saved and I said, 'I'm just gonna do the damn thing.' ''

Mazany was 3-1 in Alaska before he fought twice in Canada in 2009. He lost both fights, and in the second one Ryan Ford dispatched him in 28 seconds — the fight was stopped when a kick shattered Mazany's face.

He had a broken nose, an orbital fracture, three straight losses and something to prove. After having surgery to repair his eye, he made a big decision.

"I drove my truck to Las Vegas," he said.

More than a year passed before Mazany fought again. Las Vegas was still recovering from the recession, he said, and both fights and construction work were hard to come by.

In October 2010, the gym Mazany trained at got a call from the EFC in South Africa looking for someone to take on its lightweight champion, Wentzel Nel, on 10-days' notice.

Mazany jumped at the opportunity, and during a hurried training camp, he injured his back.


"The show must go on. I'm not gonna pull out," he said. "I crushed a bunch of ibuprofen and I stepped into the cage and in front of 7,000 people at the Coca-Cola Dome in Johannesburg I was fighting their champion in a non-title fight.

"I ended up choking him out in the first round."

Mazany didn't return to South Africa until August 2015, but since then, all of his fights have been in the EFC.

In July 2016, he defeated Leon Mynhardt to win the EFC lightweight championship, a title he held until Don Madge beat him in April 2017.

Mazany has won two EFC fights since then, including one at the end of March.

Neither of the Mazanys have a timeline for how long they'll keep fighting. Maybe they'll go for as long as their bodies will let them.

Both of them participate in a brain-injury study at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas. Annual tests that gauge their memories, reactions and other neurological functions show that their brains are OK.

"I haven't shown any deterioration yet," Dave said. "For me, it's good peace of mind, because they're tracking it.

"… I consider myself a mindful person. I have a lot of life to live, and without your brain it would suck. I want to live a good life. I've enjoyed the whole ride but if something came up and they said, 'This is affecting your life,' I would (quit)."

Gina said she's happy to participate in a study that monitors her health and might eventually help others, but she's also doing it for pragmatic reasons.

"It's really hard to make money in fighting," she said. "It's a constantly broke lifestyle. When you fight, you have to have medical (exams) done, and an MRI costs $800. But as part of this study, I get that for free."

The Mazanys earn extra money by competing together in tag-team wrestling matches staged in casinos, and Dave also works as a personal trainer.


"Many of us are sliding by just to pay the bills," Dave said of pro fighters.

Yet it's a way of life Dave and Gina have embraced. They're doing what they love to do, every single day.

"Money doesn't make people happy," Gina said. "Being rich or wealthy doesn't make you happy. I worked at a job when I was 23 years old making $55,000, $60,000 a year but I wasn't happy because I wasn't doing what I was passionate about.

"The pursuit of happiness is finding something that makes you so happy that you're cool with not having a comfortable lifestyle — not to say that I'm dirt poor.

"It's really cool to be in a sport where you can improve yourself every day and learn every day. I love going to work."

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.