Wednesday, March 18, 2009
My interview with Sarah Kaufman
Q: Fans want to know how you got into MMA. I read that you have a dance background and got into martial arts by accident. Please elaborate.
A: I never planned on getting into MMA..or even martial arts. I started dancing when I was 2 and continued for the next 17 years. I was in a dance company by the time I was 8, and couldn’t imagine doing anything other than dance. I did ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, musical theatre...pretty much every form out there. It wasn’t until I was 17, that I started Muay Thai.
Adam Zugec happened to open ZUMA directly under my dance studio, so I thought I would give it a try with a friend. My friend didn’t show up, but I went and immediately fell in love with training. Because I was already committed to dance, school, and work, I could only fit in 1 class per week for the first year...but then I started to cut down on dance and add more classes into my schedule. From there, the next progression was to try out my hand in some small competitions, then when Adam thought I was ready, I had my first professional MMA fight.
Q: So now you're an instructor at Zuma. Do your students know who you are?
A: I teach lots of different classes at ZUMA, and many of the students know that I have done quite well in my MMA fights. I’m not a very good self-promoter, and I fight for myself instead of the recognition, so I don’t tend to bring up my fighting during casual conversations. Because of this, most people who come in to try out classes don’t know that I fight professionally, but usually find out at some point and think it’s really neat.
Q: When did you decide to get into professional MMA? Was it difficult to get promoters in Canada to give you a chance?
A: My first professional MMA fight was in June 2006. We had a promoter call us up and ask Adam if I wanted to take a fight against Liz Bader (then Posener). Adam said yes, which I’m sure he might now regret since I’m constantly bugging him about when my next fight is...LOL. After my first fight, it wasn’t too bad finding Canadian organizations willing to have me fight for them. I fought for KOTC a few times, then was the first women’s fight in both Winnepeg (UCW) and then TKO.
Q: You were in the first women's match in TKO and you also won a title belt in Hardcore Championship Fighting. The high of that win was tempered by the demise of HCF soon after. Any idea what happened there? I understand the owners had personality issues as opposed to money issues.
A: It was really hard for me to accept that HCF was closing down. They were very supportive of women’s MMA, and treated me really well. HCF didn’t make special rules for the women, or force us to do anything differently than the males in the sport. After defending the title, we were told that HCF was going through some changes...for the good. I’m not sure what happened, but the investors that were planning on coming in didn’t, and HCF went under.
Q: So how did EliteXC find you?
A: We had spoken with Elite XC before I signed with HCF, or maybe around the same time, but chose to go with HCF. Once HCF went under, it was quite a process, but we got in contact with Elite and signed a contract not too long after.
Q: They had scheduled a match for you against Kaitlin Young when they closed. Though it was well known that they were losing millions, it must have been a big shock. What were your thoughts at the time?
A: Honestly, when I first signed with Elite, I knew they were in trouble and would likely go out of business. I NEVER would have guessed that they would stop putting on shows less than 3 weeks before I was supposed to fight Kaitlin. I had hoped that I would have gotten to fight at least once for them, to at least get my name out there a bit more before they went under.
Q: So like a lot of EliteXC fighters, you were in contract limbo. Then you signed a three fight deal with Palace Fighting Championships in California. How did that come about?
A: I think my management, EPIC Fight Management, was originally contacted by PFC to have me fight Erin Toughill. I didn’t want to go up that high in weight, but we kept in contact and signed the 3-fight contract not long after.
Q: Of course then Strikeforce bought the EliteXC assets and picked up your contract. How did you find out about that?
A: Once PFC made the announcement that I had signed with them, someone from Elite (I’m not sure who exactly) contacted my management to let him know that they were getting ready to sign a new deal. We didn’t know any details, but knew that it was a possibility. Then, I read a press release that my contract had been picked up...and that’s when I knew for sure.
Q: Say what you will about EliteXC but it was obvious that they intended to have several weight classes in the women's division and they didn't sign you to face Gina Carano. They signed you to be the star of your weight class. Fans are concerned that Strikeforce is interested only in Gina Carano. The upcoming fight between Cristiane Santos & Hitomi Akano feeds into that somewhat because most fans don't know anything about Akano. She's fought in several weight classes including 145. What has Strikeforce told you and what are your thoughts about moving up to 145? Personally, I don't think you should do it. They should accomodate you.
A: As far as I know, I will be fighting at 135lbs when I fight for Strikeforce. The fight between me and Kaitlin was scheduled for 135, and that’s the weight that I like to fight at. I think there are so many talented women at my weight, that there really isn’t a need to move up to find fights. The only reason to move up would be if there were no other women to fight at 135, or if it was an extremely good opportunity. Unfortunately, sometimes you do have to go where the money/ fights are, but I hope that my permanent home is 135lbs.
Q: I read last week that Strikeforce has agreed to allow you to fulfill your PFC contract and your first fight will be on April 23. How did that come about and does that mean Strikeforce doesn't have plans for anyone but Gina vs Cyborg?
A: I’m not entirely sure on the full details, but I believe that Strikeforce has agreed to let me fight for PFC, as long as the PFC fight doesn’t interfere with my scheduled fight with Strikeforce. I did sign with Elite XC and then PFC, so my first commitment is to Strikeforce (nee Elite). I definitely think that Strikeforce is trying to bring more ladies into the open...it appears that many of the contracts they chose to pick up were for women in the lower weight categories. Both Gina and Cyborg are very talented, but it will be great to have more women getting to fight on some visible cards...and not just on the undercard!
Q: Maybe fighting for PFC will open Strikeforce's eyes and establish you to the point where they'll build a 135lb weight class around you. Any idea who you will be fighting in PFC? Is there anyone you would like to fight?
A: I think there are so many women fighting at 135lbs that are extremely talented. I also don’t believe that anyone needs to have a weight class built around them. If a woman deserves to be at the top, she will prove it, and she will get there. I am in no rush. I don’t actually know anything about the girl I am scheduled to fight for PFC, but I’m sure she’ll come ready to fight. For me, I just like to fight, and I hope to be able to fight some of the better established fighters (Shayna, Tara, Roxanne, Tonya), when the time is right. Again, I am in no rush.
Q: You're 23 now. How long do you plan to keep fighting. And of course I have to ask you if you're interested in going to Japan. I'd love to see you fight the legendary pioneer of women's MMA Megumi Yabushita.
A: I have no plan for how long I will keep fighting. I will continue to train and fight until I no longer enjoy it. I will go anywhere to fight, so if I get a fight in Japan, I’ll go to Japan!
Q: The Cyborg/Akano match is scheduled for three three minute rounds. Strikeforce owner Scott Coker has said that the California State Athletic Commission mandates that women's MMA matches must have three minute rounds. But the CSAC has said that it is a promoter's decision and your fights for PFC will be five minute rounds. What are your thoughts about five minute rounds in women's MMA and have you talked to Strikeforce about this discrepancy?
A: I think you may be mistaken, PFC only has 3 min rounds...for everyone, even the guys. I am all for 5 min rounds. There is no reason why women need to fight 3 min. Except for my first fight, all have been 5 min...with my last 2 fights scheduled for 5 5min rounds. Unfortunately, if the organizations are only willing to have 3 min rounds, I’ll have to take it. I would rather fight 3 min than 0 min...but 5 min would be even better. I hope that enough fighters, commentators and fans will make enough noise to eventually change the promoters’ decision, but until then, I will just keep training and fighting.
Q: Do you have anything to say to your fans around the world? Now is the time to plug your sponsors, your trainers and your dojo.
A: I would like to thank everyone who has supported me thus far: Adam Zugec (my awesome coach), all my training partners at ZUMA, Epic Fight Management, Tyler Goodale and anyone else I may have forgotten (sorry). I would also like to encourage any woman even slightly interested in fighting/ training to try it out and don’t let anyone discourage you. For the current and future WMMA fans, look out for me in the future...I hope to make a big statement with my fighting.