After hitting some of the highest peaks in MMA, Sarah Kaufman has struggled to find a fight over the past two years.
In the wake of her elimination from the PFL’s 2019 season, Kaufman (21-5, 1NC) was a big name in search of a fight. While the pandemic was at least partially to blame, the Canadian, a former Strikeforce and Invicta FC bantamweight champion, believes her resume played a part as well.
“I think that’s why people don’t want to fight me,” Kaufman told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview ahead of her return at the upcoming BTC 13. “I think that I’m a very dangerous fight for every fighter on the planet. I don’t think there’s a single female, especially at my weight class, on the planet that would say I’m an easy fight, or that I’m a fight that they’re guaranteed to win.”
In a big promotion, Kaufman pointed out, “they can somewhat force you to take a fight. They can say ‘look, here’s what we’re offering, if you don’t take it, we let you go.'” Outside the major organizations, however, “you want to fight names that are going to build up your resume, that are going to get people to notice who you are, and you kind of want to take the safest fights possible to do that.”
“To take a risk and fight someone who has a great name but is also a really tough fight, I can see why people don’t want to do that,” the Canadian veteran continued, “without getting paid a substantial amount of money that you would in a larger promotion.”
“”I kind of set a goal that if I didn’t have a fight by the end of 2021, I might call it quits.”
Kaufman linked up with BTC after attending one of the promotion’s shows that featured a teammate making their debut. After meeting with the matchmakers, things worked out. It’s a good thing, too.
“I kind of set a goal that if I didn’t have a fight by the end of 2021, I might call it quits. So I was pretty happy to have something.” Kaufman doesn’t necessarily want to retire, but at the same time, doesn’t want to put her life on hold for a career “that just isn’t happening because someone won’t say yes.”
And so Saturday’s BTC 13 main event isn’t about winning or leaving the sport. In fact the retirement question wasn’t about wins or losses period. “I always want to win, so that’s just a big thing, but it’s more just an activity/inactivity thing. To go two years where— I had no reason for a year and a half of that at least to be sitting on the sidelines, aside from, the pandemic for sure put a crimp in a lot of the promotions and their ability to run fight cards.”
Still, she said, it’s been “five, six, seven years of, maybe even longer, people just not agreeing to fight me, and kind of sitting watching everybody else get these fights.” Which eats away at her career window.
“There’s a finite amount of time that you can be active and competitive as an elite athlete, especially in a combat sport but really any sport,” Kaufman explained. “And I’m not getting younger. So if I’m sitting for one year, two years, two plus years between every fight, at this point, if I’m making money and I’m not able to get fights and be active in the career itself, then I can just train and enjoy training for what training is, and start to think about the next journey of career’s for me. Because you can’t be a pro athlete forever.”
Luckily, things have worked out, with only one downside to her fight with Bellator vet Jessy Miele at BTC 13. “It’s not my ideal weight class. 135 is where I want to be fighting and should be fighting.” As for her opponent, “I have nothing but good things to say about Jessy,” Kaufman told us.
“Our names have been talked about quite a few times in terms of having match-ups. A few years ago we were supposed to fight at 135, it was no wrong doing on either her or my end, but one of the promoters that was putting it together was kind of messing her around a little bit, so she stepped out of it,” recalled Kaufman. “But it’s a name that I’ve heard for a while, and I’m glad she got the opportunity to fight in Bellator, because I think she was struggling for a while to get some fights.”
Kaufman sees Saturday’s showdown as an opportunity for both sides. “An opportunity to headline a card against a big name in me I would say is a great opportunity for her. She’ll have a bit of an advantage in the size department because she’s going to be cutting weight to 145 and I’m a 135’er, but I don’t foresee that being a huge issue for me. I’m in a really good place right now with my physique and my fitness and my strengths, and I’m so confident in my skill set on top of that.”
Kaufman, however, is not expecting an easy fight. “I know that Jessy has the ability to be well-rounded when it comes to her striking, her wrestling, and her ground. She doesn’t shy away from anything, and I think that that’s a really exciting thing for me, because a lot of people I’ve fought have somewhat shied away from actually engaging, and I don’t think this will be a problem for Jessy.”
So what’s next for Sarah Kaufman, if everything goes according to plan at BTC 13? It’s bantamweight or bust.
“My only interest is fighting at 135. I really just took this fight at 145 because I set a goal of fighting in 2021, and this was the only way it was going to happen.” Getting to headline a card for a Canadian promotion, run by a female CEO, also factored in. “It just really worked out for me in this case, but 135 is where I want to be fighting. I worked really hard to get my weight down, and be lean and be fit and be ready to go for a fight at 135. I don’t really have any interest in trying to bulk up to then fill a bigger spot at 145.”
Sarah Kaufman faces Jessy Miele atop BTC 13 this Saturday, November 20 at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, ON. The PPV event is available for purchase via BTCFight.ca