At Invicta FC 27, bantamweight trailblazer Sarah Kaufman begins her march back to the top of the division.
Canada’s Sarah Kaufman returns to the Invicta FC fold this month at Invicta FC 27. It marks her first fight with the all-female fighting promotion since a one-off bout against Leslie Smith in 2013. A win that night, at Invicta FC 5, saw her jump to the UFC. There, the former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion struggled to find her footing, going 1-2 (1NC) over the course of four fights. The losses, mind you, came to some top names in Alexis Davis and Valentina Shevchenko.
After the UFC opted not to renew her contract, Kaufman set her sights elsewhere, but there’s little question that the goal will be an eventual return to the top. Over the holidays, Cageside Press had a chance to discuss Kaufman’s past, present, and future — including her Invicta FC 27 main event with Pannie Kianzad.
I think the UFC needs my talent in the division.
Looking back to the Shevchenko fight in December 2015, after which the UFC opted not to renew her deal, was Kaufman at all surprised by what unfolded?
“Yes and no. I think the UFC needs my talent in the division” she told us. “I think the bantamweight division without me is somewhat incomplete, given who I’ve fought and how I fight. But at the same time, I understand that I didn’t have my best performances in the UFC. My last fight with Valentina, it was really more a matter of me not fighting hard enough, which was really disappointing for me. So I understand somewhat, but for me, I just want to be fighting.”
She’s not dwelling on the past, however. “At this point I feel like they really need me. But I’m very happy to fight for Invicta on January 13.”
“I think that Invicta is a really great home, and a place where they value their fighters first and foremost” she said of Shannon Knapp’s promotion. “You see that in how they treat their fighters, and in how excited they are to have me.”
Since Kaufman parted ways with the UFC, mind you, the landscape for women in the sport has changed. Bellator opened its doors to the flyweight division, and this Summer, the UFC followed suit. A number of fighters have subsequently dropped down (or moved up) in weight, including former Kaufman opponent Jessica Eye. We wanted to know if that was ever a serious consideration for the Canadian bantamweight. Turns out it was — just not a feasible option long term.
“After I fought Valentina, I got hurt. Actually like a week after” Kaufman said. “I was training, seven days after the fight, just moving on, and I ended up separating my shoulder. As that was healing, I was ready to help Holly get ready for the Miesha fight, and then I partially tore my rotator.”
That injury put her on the shelf for a bit. “The start of 2016 anyway was just me recovering, making sure I was healthy and feeling good, back to health and not prolonging my injury. After that, I had a talk with my coaching staff and the people that I work with, and who are kind of responsible for me physically and me in the sport. We discussed trying to go down to 125, to see if that would open up more doors, because Bellator has the 125, but they don’t have the 135. And just having a few other options, to see if that was feasible.”
It wasn’t. “I honestly believe that the division is just too small for me. At a time where the sport is trying to get away from drastic weight cuts, I definitely think that would be a weight cut where potentially my body would run into some issues” she explained. “Even doing it the right way, even dieting down, physiologically, if I were to get to six or eight percent body fat, which is incredibly low, I could then potentially get to a place where I could then cut eight to ten percent of water weight. I just don’t think that is a long term endeavor for me.”
Kaufman is keenly aware of the dangers of weight cutting. “I know that there are others who are trying to do it right now. I think that Sijara Eubanks, who was just on [TUF 26], I think she’s probably in a similar boat boat” the former Strikeforce champ told us. “She did make it, on the show, but now she’s had kidney failure, or the start of kidney failure. That’s your long-term health. I don’t think that, for me, that’s somewhere I’ll end up going.”
In the end, she told us with a laugh that “I feel really strong at 35, so I’m not the tallest, but what I don’t have in height, I make up for in strength, and having a huge butt, which propels me forward.” We’ll have to take her word on that last part.
On the next page, we discuss fighting without pay, the Invicta FC 27 main event with Pannie Kianzad, and more.