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Sarah Kaufman: The Perfectionist

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The Strikeforce 135-pound women’s champion talks about her upcoming title defense, her desire to fight on a major Showtime/CBS card, and the potential of a superfight with 145-pound champ Cris Cyborg.

By CagePotato contributor Brian J. D’Souza

When fans think of women’s MMA, their first thought is often a tossup between pinups like Gina Carano and Miesha Tate or a 2-2 Kim Couture aided by a last name she married into. But sitting pretty at 11-0 with possession of the Strikeforce women’s welterweight championship belt is Victoria, BC’s Sarah Kaufman, who fights Friday, July 23rd, on the ShoMMA: Strikeforce Challengers event to be held in Everett, Washington. It will be her first defense against 15-5 Roxanne Modafferi, but she’s driven not just to get the win, but also by the goal of making it to the next level.

“I started out in dance when I was about two,” explains Kaufman of her earliest pastime, which was interrupted when she took her first Muay Thai class at age 17. “Adam Zugec opened Zuma (MMA gym) underneath my dance studio — when I started that, it was something fun that just took over my life.”

Later, she even tried to work her University classes around her training schedule for MMA, but there was just no compromising her passion.

“After two years of University, I decided it wasn’t really where I wanted to go. Now I’m doing MMA fulltime”

There was never any bold pronouncement that Kaufman was going to be number one in the world, nor any bottled aggression looking for an outlet. Sarah describes herself as a competitive person who thrives on the challenge her opponents present her with.

“I would like to think of myself as a perfectionist, so I just always want to get better.”

In May there was some controversy when her contract was automatically renewed courtesy of the so-called "champions clause," following the third and final fight of her agreement with Strikeforce. Kaufman explains that her representation renegotiated a new contract with Strikeforce, but doesn’t go into the specific details.

“My job as a fighter is to be ready for a fight — not to be worried about paperwork.”

The competition between the UFC and Strikeforce has improved the bargaining power of MMA fighters who now have more of a choice as to where to sign. For female fighters, there are other options in Bellator and Japan, but Kaufman is pleased with her current promoter.

“Showtime is really good — I really enjoy working with them. They have a great staff, and Strikeforce is trying to push these female divisions, which is great.”

This being the fourth Challengers show she’ll fight on, Kaufman is still eager to further her potential by appearing on a major Strikeforce card, and sees a long-term payoff through the national reach available through the organization.

“The next step for me to get more popular, to get more fans, to get more exposure is to be on those main Showtime cards — or even a CBS card—that’s really my goal with the organization.”

She also repeats the same request mentioned by many other fighters under contract with Strikeforce who want more fights, suggesting that 3-4 bouts a year would be the ideal situation in her case.

While Kaufman may not be privy to the strategy of Showtime/Strikeforce, she knows that an exciting fight capped by a knockout or submission victory over Roxanne Modafferi would raise her stock with both fans and the organization’s planners.

“Whether it’s a standing knockout, a TKO on the ground, or if a submission presents itself and I have to take that, I really want to finish this fight, and I’m going to do everything that I can to get there.”

But even after four years as a professional, an endless number of sacrifices, a title belt and a spot on a nationally televised promotion, there are still questions over the future of women’s MMA.

Strikeforce fighter Erin Toughill recently vented criticism consistent with all her interviews, recently stating in a Q&A posted on TheGarv, “I don’t think that there [are] enough good women to really have a solid division. That’s just how it is right now. Maybe in five to ten years there will be.”

Kaufman points to Strikeforce’s plans for a 135-pound tournament, explaining that she’d be happy to face the winner. But even more tempting is the potential for a catchweight champion vs. champion superfight against 145-pound ruler Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos. There are fewer viable contenders in the women’s middleweight division, evidenced by an undersized 8-7 Jan Finney being offered up as a sacrificial lamb/showcase fight for Cyborg’s last defense. Kaufman knows giving up weight to Cyborg would be worth the tradeoff to garner more notoriety for herself, and she’s made careful study of Santos’ game.

“Cyborg has a lot of good qualities about her. She does a lot of really good things in the cage. But she does have holes, and she is beatable, so if that’s something that was asked of me, that’s something that can potentially happen in the future.”

Right now, Kaufman is working hard to be prepared. She has the support of teammates like Nick Driedgar, Connor Wood, Andrew Jorgensen, Tyler Dolby and other training partners at Zuma MMA. Her coach Adam Zugec has been there from the start, and she does additional training with strength and conditioning coach Tyler Goodale. Even legend Greg Jackson merits a mention for helping to tweak her game.

But on July 23rd, she’ll be facing her opponent alone, and she has one wish going into the fight — an opponent who presses forward instead of fighting to survive or doing only enough to win:

“I just hope Roxanne brings it.”

Cagepotato Comments

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ghostboner- July 6, 2010 at 3:57 pm
I find Sara to be attractive even when not standing next to Cyborg. And a good fighter. She will have a bit of a size advantage over Roxy, and when skill is relatively equal size will make the difference. So go Sara. And if you need someone for some celebratory post victory sex, give me a call.
cecils_pupils- July 6, 2010 at 11:38 am
@Freddy - I was on topic since it was about Kaufman. Just tryin' to show that every chick can look good when you make a proper comparison. ;)

I'd start spouting off about M-1 but that is just too off topic for me...
Almost North- July 6, 2010 at 10:59 am
Pam Beasley: MMA badass.
ComaPlata- July 6, 2010 at 10:27 am
Yeah, I'm still in denial about the fact that only one Ben writes here now.
FreddyFangers- July 6, 2010 at 10:19 am
Well yeah, Id bone Kaufman over Cyborg. But this motherfuckin article isnt about Cyborg is it??? Stay on topic Cecils..
Yeah, I heard a rumor about M-1's head office closing its doors and investor leaving in droves. Get on that Ben, and dont put those other dopes you hired on it. We need a story worth reading. I guess you could say the M in M-1 stands for (takes sunglasses off) meltdown....
justscrappin- July 6, 2010 at 10:00 am
For serial though....they said she used to I bet if you put her in some hot tight outfit..she probably has a decent body. God I love women who dance...they usually have amazing booties and legs. They also know how to move their hips...which is of course great for the sexy time explosion.
justscrappin- July 6, 2010 at 9:58 am
That's like saying would you rather fuck the big girl from that precious movie...or Ruben Studdard. It's not fair if only one has a vagina. Or in this case a smaller penis.
cecils_pupils- July 6, 2010 at 9:54 am
If you had to choose between doin' the nasty-nasty with Cyborg or Sarah Kaufman who would you choose? That's what I thought... Sarah's lookin' a lot better now, huh?
justscrappin- July 6, 2010 at 9:54 am
Oh..and btw...there is a Mike involved now too coma.
justscrappin- July 6, 2010 at 9:52 am
Where did you hear that?
ComaPlata- July 6, 2010 at 9:50 am
Enough of this shit. What's up with the M1 Global collapse story. Let's get a Bens take on it.
justscrappin- July 6, 2010 at 9:49 am
Yeah no...I see that. I also wanted to make sure it actually happened...thought I was maybe having a flashback. I figure sooner or later all the hallucinogens I took will catch up to me.
FreddyFangers- July 6, 2010 at 9:38 am
I didnt delete it. I guess we are now being censored on this site. Its like CP is purposely trying to suck lately
justscrappin- July 6, 2010 at 9:38 am
And so did David Caruso....some people might argue that ( takes sunglasses off) they are one and the same.
justscrappin- July 6, 2010 at 9:35 am
Oh man....I can't believe you deleted your post Freddy....Satan still heard you.
FreddyFangers- July 6, 2010 at 9:32 am
Wow, my post was taken down....

Anyway, I STILL agree with justscrappin about her abilities. It looks like Sara has a penis between her eyes. She has good MMA skills so I guess you could call her (takes sunglasses off) cock of all trades...
justscrappin- July 6, 2010 at 9:16 am
Nice Freddy...I think you just took that spot that satan was reserving for me....I just tagged you "it." Now you have to trick someone else into saying something really mean-spirited to exhonerate your soul from eternal damnation. Luckily for you this is the it should take all of 3 nanoseconds for that to happen.
maclaren- July 6, 2010 at 9:11 am
God I feel bad. I live in Victoria BC and didn't know she was even from Canada.
FreddyFangers- July 6, 2010 at 9:07 am
Presidents Day eh, Rex?
justscrappin- July 6, 2010 at 8:57 am
Alright, I dont want to go to hell......Sarah Kaufman seems like a really nice, hardworking person. I hope the best for her and her career.
ReX13- July 6, 2010 at 8:56 am
Um, i think my funny-maker is broke today. I may have blown it off this past weekend with an M-80 at the 4th.

For our Canadian friends, the "4th of July" is when we Americans celebrate Presidents' Day, to commemorate the founding of our country by Christopher Columbus on July 4th, 1812. Columbus was the explorer who set foot on US soil and told his scribe, "This is one small step for man, but damn it feels good to be off that damned boat." Columbus established contact with the indigenous peoples of the New World, calling them "Indians" because he wanted to set up a casino. Then he and his buddy Sam Adams set up a brewery, and they wrote a fuck-you letter to the King of England for making them wear hats with buckles on them. Then they set off fireworks.

justscrappin- July 6, 2010 at 8:51 am
I think this should piece should have been called....Sarah Kaufman: leaving men'm such a dick.
Ballkick- July 6, 2010 at 8:41 am
Don't misunderstand me I think she's a good 135 Champ, but Cyborg is in a different league. Yes she is from Victoria B.C. Canada.
ReX13- July 6, 2010 at 8:27 am
Ballkick>> c'mon man, why you going to call Kaufman a can? She's the 135 pound champ playa!

Besides, i think she's from the Great White North like you.
Ballkick- July 6, 2010 at 8:24 am
I will be cheering for Sarah (CAN) to win her fight with Roxanne Modafferi. Roxy is a good opponent for Sarah with some credentials in Smackgirl in Japan. Look for Roxy to want to take this to the ground and get a Sub win.
Now something disturbs me here in reading this article, are 135-145lb female MMA fighters so desperate for TV exposure that they all seem to want a piece of the beast, Cyborg? Just to get on TV and get their less than 180 minutes of fame?
Puzzling to say the least. I would rather degrade myself and go on Honey Wrestling than step in with Cyborg.