Marloes Coenen Discusses Life After Fighting, Higher Weight Classes for Women, and More

Marloes Coenen Bellator MMA
Marloes Coenen Credit: Dave Mandel/

MMA pioneer Marloes Coenen chats about feeling free now that she’s retired, the current featherweight field, and tells us she’s expecting a baby girl!

Marloes Coenen (23–8) retired from MMA last year, but has a lot of big things coming up — including a baby girl. With a documentary on the way as well, Coenen, a pioneer of the women’s side of the sport, is keeping busy. The former Strikeforce bantamweight champion and Invicta/Bellator title challenger caught up with Cageside Press prior to Bellator 192 on Saturday night in Los Angeles.

A longtime competitor, does Coenen ever feel the urge to get back in the cage? “When I was fighting, I always felt free in the cage because I could show behavior that women normally in society [couldn’t] do,” she said, “and they even applauded me for being aggressive.” Now that she’s retired, however, “I feel free from the cage. Because every day I was busy with MMA, and even if you didn’t have the fight lined up, you were thinking about the fight. You were thinking about improving yourself by having the right diet.”

“I feel liberated. I’m happy, for me, I feel like a kid in a candy store. ‘Oh, no, I don’t have to make weight, I can eat!'”

Asked what champions like Cris Cyborg and Julia Budd should be doing to earn the “best in the world” mantle, Coenen told us that “I think Cyborg is an amazing athlete, she has been undefeated for such a long time.” That said, it takes “a little bit of the shine” off, given that Cyborg was busted for a prior drug test failure. Still, “when I looked at her last fight, I think you could see — she’s a head hunter, she doesn’t go to the body, and she didn’t mix it up — but the accuracy of her punches, I loved it.”

“It was good for Holly that she could take it to the fifth round,” Coenen said of UFC 219’s Cyborg vs. Holm, “but what I see in Cris is that she doesn’t have to show how good she is, because she doesn’t need to. She outpowers and outstrikes everyone,” adding with a laugh that “I’ve experienced that.”

As for Julia Budd, Coenen suspects she’ll hang on to the Bellator women’s featherweight title for a while. “She’s amazing, I think she’ll stay a champ for quite a long time. She’s very strategic, she’s very strong.”

On the featherweight and higher weight classes for women as a whole, Coenen recounted that “when I lost my fight against Cyborg, I was forced to fight at 135. There were no other options. So a lot of women have been forced to fight in the 135 division.” Then came the fighter that changed everything. “Ronda Rousey, she came in at 145, dropped to 135. UFC exploded, then all the attention was on the 135. What you saw was the UFC only went down. Because people don’t want to see big women fighting.”

Coenen doesn’t agree with that. “I like it, I want to see 155. I don’t think we’re big at 145, but we don’t see divisions at 155, and nothing above it. And there are enough women out there that are tall enough and heavy enough to bring good fights.”

Developing the higher weight classes is something Coenen sees as key for the sport’s growth. “I really believe that if we want to become a mainstream sport, we have to be more democratic,” she said, “and not focus on looks that much, and go for the light cute girls, that ‘oh they can also fight.’ No, we want to have real true athletes.”

Check out our full chat with the legendary Marloes Coenen above!