On Saturday, August 18, Sarah Kaufman will challenge Ronda Rousey for the Strikeforce bantamweight title. I caught up with Kaufman during her preparations for the fight, and here is what she had to say about her MMA career and how she matches up with Rousey:
Sarah, how has your training been going for this fight?
Kaufman: Training's been going really well. I got to go down to Albuquerque and train with Greg Jackson, Julie Kedzie, and Mike Winkeljohn and all the great people they have for about a week, you know right at the start of my camp. And then I came back to Victoria, and I have my coach Adam Zugec and all of my teammates at ZUMA, and I'm lucky enough that I have a really great camp around me and a really great team. I'm just pushing through this training so far... and I feel really good.
How have you prepared for Ronda Rousey in comparison with other opponents that you've faced?
Kaufman: We kinda do a little bit of the same training for the most part because I think that as a fighter, you have to fight your fight. You can't get too worried about what your opponent might do. So we're training smart. We're training things that I want to do in the fight that I'm good at and has worked in the past, but also keeping in mind how Ronda is going to be fighting and her general style. And then clearly, we're doing a lot of transitions, arm bar defense, submission defense, and then me doing submissions as well. We're just kind of mixing everything up.
What is the most difficult fight that you've had thus far in your career?
Kaufman: There are so many ways that fights have been difficult. I've had mentally tough fight where I've been super frustrated because the person that I'm fighting won't fight me, and I almost don't want to keep fighting. It's like "come on, let go, stop running away. Come here, let me hit you, please!"
You know, then I've had other fights, like my last one with Alexis Davis, which was a very physical fight, and that's fun to me. It was a really physically tough fight in terms of back and forth and constantly moving, but I still felt good in it. I'd have to probably say Alexis because it was more competitive than a lot of the other fights that I've fought.
How did you get started with MMA?
Kaufman: I started training with Adam Zugec, who is still my coach at ZUMA, and I started it as kind of a different sports outlet. I always did dance, and I was kinda on the artsy side, but I really liked athletics. I liked running. I tried to join all of the teams in school.
It wasn't until I was getting close to graduating high school that I had an opportunity to try out a kickboxing class. And once I tried it out, it wasn't a matter of, "Oh, I know I want to fight." It was a matter of, "I love this sport." And I just love the feeling - the duration of that contact. From pad work, it turned into, "Okay, maybe I should try should try sparring," because if you can only hit pads- there's just so many other aspects to Thai boxing once there's sparring involved. Then it was like, "Oh, I shouldn't just spar with other people at the gym. I should do competitions and try it out." And it really just kind of snowballed from there.
I ended up having a girl, Liz Posener, who I had done some grappling tournaments with. She knew that I also did kickboxing, and she was competing with NAC - I think it was called North American Challenge - just a little card in Vancouver. And the promoter called and said, "Hey, Liz kinda mentioned that Sarah might be interested in doing an MMA fight." And we just took it because it seemed like the right thing to do, and I was really intrigued by the sport.
How did you feel after that first fight?
Kaufman: That first fight was a huge learning curve because I trained for the fight, and it was my first MMA fight at all, as well as it was my coach's first time coaching someone from the ground up to get into MMA. And so for both of us, it was figuring out the training and not overtraining and making sure that I'd done enough.
I ended up getting a solid out-cold knock-out in the third round. That feeling was incredible - just landing that one punch and seeing them fall down. It was not something that I expected to happen or I thought could happen. Everything inside of me was kind of like, "Wow, this is amazing." The rush you get and just the physicality of the back and forth between your opponent and yourself was something that I hadn't experienced before, and I knew that I wanted to keep doing it right away.
What does winning this title mean to you?
Kaufman: I think that especially now that Strikeforce is part of Zuffa, the title has gotten bigger. You know, when I first had the title, it was a huge deal. When I fought top-level, it was important, but all of a sudden, it's that much bigger. It's like the holy grail of the sport.
And I think it's Ronda's time to lose [the title] so I can step into that spotlight and prove that there are more females in this sport. Dana's kinda saying, "Oh, well, Ronda has no one to fight." Well, she's only had five fights and only one fight at 135 pounds. How can you say that? So I hope to take this opportunity to get this title, give Ronda her first loss, and at the same time, try and open Dana's eyes to the fact that I'm here, and that there are other females who are here and ready and willing and wanting to put on great fights.
Source: Personal Interview