EXCLUSIVE | Sarah Kaufman: ‘Whoever I get, I feel sorry for them and they’re going to be my stepping stone’ | Late Night Cageside Radio
When the fight world caught wind that former Strikeforce Women’s Champion Sarah Kaufman (16-2-0) was finally going to make her UFC debut against Sara McMann at UFC Fight Night 27 on August 28th, the anticipation for one of the biggest names in WMMA began to drive hardcore fans crazy. When news broke a few weeks ago that Sara McMann had withdrawn from the fight due to an undisclosed injury, it then left the forums and fans sighing with disappointment. When Sarah Kaufman let the world know she was removed from the card all together via Twitter a few days ago, disappointment boiled over into outrage and sadness.
Kaufman joined BJPENN.com’s Late Night Cage Side Radio on Monday to discuss the unfortunate turn of events, how it has affected her mentally and financially, what she plans to do to bounce back, and give a warning to the UFC’s Women’s bantamweight division.
Kaufman first commented on how upsetting this news was for her and when she was informed there was no replacement found, Sarah told Kinch and Chase, “I have actually known for a couple of days now, and definitely, it’s really upsetting because it’s something I have been working so long and so hard for, to finally make that UFC debut. My fight camp was amazing, I worked with Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn, and my training partners down in Albuquerque right in the beginning of camp. I was able to help out Julie Kedzie for her fight, so I was down there in the very beginning of July, and I have had my whole fight camp back in Victoria with my coach Adam Zugec and my team at ZUMA. It has probably been one of the best camps I have ever had, I feel great and I was really prepared.” Sarah continued, “Everything was really on point for that debut, and to kind of have the rug pulled out from under you, I know they looked for opponent’s, and I think it’s a combination of people not wanting to fight me on short notice, as well as the fact that the TUF show has 15 girls that are currently on hold because of the show, and six of the UFC girls just fought in the a couple weeks. Timing is everything, and unfortunately for me, it’s kind of a bad spot to try to find someone to fill in.”
While timing is everything in this crazy world of MMA, most of us believed that the UFC would be able to save the fight and debut the women’s division on FOX Sports 1 in triumphant fashion. When asked how the information was delivered to her, Kaufman replied, “My manager called me two weeks ago and kind of said, ‘Look we have bad news and we have good news; bad news is that Sara McMann is out; good news is that they will find an opponent within 24 hours.’ Of course you know right away, you kind of have that sinking feeling of what if they don’t find someone? What if it is someone totally different than what I have been training for? It was a big fight and a big name for both of us really, and I hope everything is ok with Sara, we don’t know why she pulled out, but it’s just hard to deal with that feeling of ‘what if they don’t find someone.’ You’re still training, you’re still dieting, and as the days went on, it turned into a week and a half of not finding anyone, and the dread sets in which makes it hard to keep that motivation to continue with hard fight training when you kind of know whats coming.”
Most fight enthusiasts understand that fighters need to fight to earn a living and there are many expenses that go into preparing for a bout that many of us would easily overlook. In regards to where this fight cancellation leaves her financially Sarah told LNCS, “It affects a lot of different things, I guess I have been lucky and unfortunate enough to have a full-time job, so I don’t need to fight to pay the bills. It’s definitely nice to have extra money and to get paid to do what you love to do, but I am out all of my training camp money. I went down to Albuquerque and Greg Jackson came up here, working with different people, and everything costs money, a camp can easily cost thousands of dollars. I have probably spent at least 3 to 4 (thousand), even on specific nutrition and travel and bringing people in. Unfortunately none of that gets reimbursed, if you don’t fight you don’t get paid pretty much. So it puts you in a tough situation because I am out money and I am going to have to do it again for another camp, and unfortunately if I don’t get paid my managers and trainers don’t get paid for their time, unless I specifically pay out of my own pocket. So it does put a lot of people in an unfortunate situation and nothing can be done about it unless the UFC and other organizations kind of change their ways in terms of, if we can’t find someone, we will give you said amounts of dollars in compensation if you are ready to fight. I don’t know what else I could do.”
Some of you may recall that Ricardo Lamas was ‘paid to appear’ following The Korean Zombie’s removal from their match at UFC 163. Since Jung was given the title shot and no replacement was found for Lamas, the UFC compensated Lamas accordingly. When Chase asked Sarah if she would pursue similar compensation, Sarah replied, “I leave my money stuff to my manager, I mean absolutely, I had an 11 week or 12 week camp and I am prepared to go but I don’t know what their usual reasonings are for what they do what they do. It’s really not their fault that my opponent fell through, but it’s also not my fault and I have done my job in terms of getting myself prepared and ready. My managers were working on getting sponsorship deals and now none of that is going to come in, so it’s a lot of money I am out as well as the people who have been putting in months of work to tie down all those sponsorships.”
As far as an accurate timetable for new opponent and another spot on an upcoming card goes, Kaufman is as much in the know as anyone, stating, “Right now I don’t know what is happening, I clearly want to fight as soon as possible, I am in fight shape already so it would be good to know because I need to dial it back and then ramp it back up for my next fight. But as of right now I really don’t know what the aim is, I think that all the cards seem to be filled until mid to late October and I want to get on a card as soon as possible, so if they aren’t able to fit me into the Toronto card it looks like October will be the earliest I can get back in there.”
The obvious fit for the Canadian slugger would have to be UFC 165 in Toronto on September 21st, but the always cool Kaufman isn’t getting her hopes up, “That would be amazing to fight in front of my home country and the fans in Canada are really supportive and really engaged when a fellow Canadian comes out. So I think that energy for my first UFC fight would be absolutely incredible. That being said, September 21st is only four weeks away, so if someone wouldn’t take the fight on three weeks notice, would they take the fight on four weeks notice? And that card is already full, so I don’t know if that will pan out but if it did that would be amazing.” Positive, yet realistic, the words of a wise athlete.
Another obvious move by the UFC could be to match Kaufman up against the recovering No. 1 contender, Cat Zingano. Zingano’s recovery is still in the early stages and no target date for training or a fight return has been projected for the undefeated Colorado native, but Kaufman certainly has that fight on her radar. Sarah told Kinch and Chase, “I think Cat would be a great fight for me, I really don’t know how soon she is going to be back with having ACL reconstruction, it’s a pretty serious injury even in terms of when she is allowed to get back on it, I don’t know what the recovery is like.” A confident Kaufman went on to say, ”I wouldn’t think she would want a fight with me for her first fight back in the UFC, those are just my thoughts but at this point I pretty much just need a warm body to get in front of me so I can hit them and get a good knockout and get a title shot.”
While her highly anticipated UFC debut has skidded to a halt for the moment, Kaufman is still very excited to finally make the walk to the famed squared-circle and put on a great show for the fans. Sarah explained her fight doctrine when it comes to her performance stating, “It is always important to put on those big shows and to prove yourself time and again because you are really only remembered for your last fight. You could have a million great performances and it’s the last one that people remember. So I think it is always important to have that big showing, that big exciting fight regardless if you get the finish or don’t get a finish, if you lose or win, you always want to win and get a big finish but you have to do what you have to do at the end of the day to get the win. It’s definitely in the back of your head that this is your moment, that this is the big show, this is what you have been working for, and while all of those things are kind of speaking to you in the back, you just hope that you can do what you do in the gym and that it translates well to the cage and you hope that the UFC, Sean Shelby, Joe Silva, Dana White and the Fertitta brothers all watch your fight and say that girl is a badass.”
So with her mantra in mind, the next question for Sarah Kaufman was regarding whether the opponent the UFC eventually comes up with needs to be someone that is going to put her prime position for a crack at the title, Kaufman declared like a true professional, “Honestly, I’ll take a fight. I have been in positions where I have been told, ‘if you win this fight you will be guaranteed the title shot,’ or if you do this you are going to get this. I don’t think that is way MMA happens, timing is everything, if you are in the right place at the right time you get that fight and if you’re not, or something is a little bit off, someone who on paper may not be as deserving gets those opportunities. So at this point my ultimate goal is that coveted UFC title, that’s what I want, that big shiny belt.”
Being the class act that she always is, Sarah continued with, “I wouldn’t wear it, and I wouldn’t want to show it off to anyone because I would be somewhat embarrassed because I don’t like the attention, but I want the belt. For that conviction that you are the best and all of your hard work, to get that validation.” The pursuer of said shiny gold belt went on to say, “That being said, who knows if I get an ‘upper-echelon’ opponent as you say, if I fight her and I win does that mean I get a title shot? Not necessarily. At this point I just want to fight, I just want to stay active, and if you win and win, and get a knockout or submission or decision, whatever it is, if you keep winning and putting your name in the hat and it keeps coming out on top, eventually you are the last one and they don’t have a choice. So honestly whomever I get, I feel sorry for them because I am ready and excited to fight, and they are going to be my stepping stone.” Fair warning ladies, the Kauf-man cometh.
Dealing with the ups and downs of this MMA game can take its toll on athletes, but Kaufman remains unfazed and keeps a positive outlook on the situation. When asked what good has; or can come of this bad fortune, Sarah told Late Night Cage Side Radio, “Well, I am in really good shape, I have a great beach body because I am cutting weight, so if I were to like the sun I would go in the sun and people would be like ‘Oh that girl must work out,’ so that’s a positive.” Beach body ‘bon mot’ aside, Kaufman has plenty more positives to take from this plunder, stating, “Any time you are in a camp, especially anytime you are getting ready for a strong wrestler, those certain aspects of your game get fine-tuned and I have worked different entries and different exits that maybe I haven’t done in the past. So you can always gain something from a fight camp, I think a lot of small details came together, certain things I was kind of getting stuck on before and I think I have tweaked a little bit and hopefully I will be better at them in the future. And just all around I think you have to have the mental strength to deal with these things and not let it affect your next fight camp or your next fight.”
“You have to go in with that same mentality and that same positive thinking as well. I got something out of it, I am already in good shape, hopefully the next camp is a bit easier because I am already in fight shape. The hard part is balancing not peeking and staying high too long, but other than that I think that there is so much I can get out of it. Aside from it being really crappy that I was going to make my UFC debut and that is being postponed to an indefinite time, there is a lot of good I got out of it.”
The fans in our beloved sport tend to surround athletes with love and warm thoughts when things like this occur, and it has been no different for Kaufman. Sarah gave this message to her fans in closing, “The support that I have been getting online, whether it’s on Twitter or Facebook, which is @mmasarah on Facebook, all over the place I have been getting e-mails of people really supporting the fact that I’m in the UFC and that I was going to be fighting, and to see the reaction. Seeing how outraged and disappointed the fans are really is touching because it means that I am doing something right and I am portraying myself as myself. I am glad that I am able to do that and that I don’t have to put on some character or some false front to try and gain fans if you will. I do want to let my fighting speak for itself, so if people just want to get online and want to tweet the UFC and tweet Dana White, let them know who you want me to fight and when you want me to fight, I think all of that helps because the UFC sees people really do want to see me fight and that I am an asset to the company, and tell me who you want me to fight. I am interested to see what the public is thinking as well and I’ll do my best to obliged and make those fights happen. At the end of the day thank you for the support.”
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