- STRIKEFORCE Women’s World Welterweight Champion Sarah Kaufman
- Dutch Superstar and No. 1 135-Pound Contender Marloes Coenen
- Former STRIKEFORCE World Lightweight Belt-Holder Josh Thomson
- World-Ranked 155-Pound Fighter Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante
- STRIKEFORCE CEO Scott Coker
The fighters and Coker participated in a national media conference call on Friday to discuss the upcoming STRIKEFORCE event on Saturday, Oct. 9, at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).
The undefeated Kaufman (12-0), a former ballet dancer, retained her title for the first time with an explosive third-round body slam KO over Roxanne Modafferi last July 23. Kaufman, who has won nine of her fights by KO, will need to prepare her ground game against Coenen (17-4), a talented submission specialist who gave STRIKEFORCE middleweight champion Cris Cyborg perhaps her toughest fight to date.
Former STRIKEFORCE champion and San Jose native Thomson (17-3) will meet the world-ranked Cavalcante (15-3-1), of Brazil, in a fight that could determine the next challenger for STRIKEFORCE World Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez.
Thomson, who shut out Melendez across five rounds to capture the lightweight title in 2008, is coming off a hard-fought submission victory over Pat “Bam Bam’’ Healy last June 26 at HP Pavilion on SHOWTIME. Cavalcante, a former consensus top five-ranked lightweight and two-time K-1 Hero’s lightweight Grand Prix champion, will make his eagerly awaited STRIKEFORCE debut.
In the main event, STRIKEFORCE Welterweight Champ Nick Diaz will defend his 170-pound crown against the last man to beat him – KJ Noons – in a grudge rematch that has been brewing since the first fight ended in bloody controversy nearly three years ago. Another featured fight will pit an emerging star from the STRIKEFORCE Challengers series, up-and-coming Luke Rockhold, against the vastly more experienced, 2000 Olympic Games wrestling silver medalist, Matt “The Law” Lindland, in a middleweight (185 pounds) contest.
Highlights of what they said Friday:
Coker: “I’d like to thank the members of the media and Josh and JZ for participating in this conference call. Looking forward to bringing STRIKEFORCE back to HP Pavilion in San Jose, the birthplace of STRIKEFORCE MMA. Welcome JZ to STRIKEFORCE fight roster and Josh Thomson back who has fought many times, since the very beginning. We’ve recently signed three other fighters: Josh Barnett, Jorge Masvidal and Paul Daley. We are excited to have those guys on board and to continue building the weight classes and the best match-ups possible to put on SHOWTIME. I’d also like to thank Ken Hershman and SHOWTIME for helping us put on these amazing fight cards, and we look forward to the match up between Nick Diaz vs. KJ Noons on Oct. 9 at HP Pavilion in San Jose.”
Thomson: “I want to thank Scott Coker for putting this fight together. I am excited for it. It’s been a rough camp, obviously when you are training hard for someone at JZ’s caliber you want to make sure that training goes perfect and I’ve been trying to make it as perfect as possible. I have bumps and bruises, everything that every fighter goes through, but so far it’s been a good camp. I have had a lot of good guys to train with and I don’t think the media will get the grasp of the situation until JZ gets into the ring and it’s nice to have him come over from Japan and fight here stateside.”
Cavalcante: “I want to say thanks to Scott and STRIKEFORCE for bringing me back to the U.S. It’s been a long time since I’ve fought in the U.S. I am glad to be fighting here and Josh is a former champion and it will be a tough fight. It is not an easy task to come over to the U.S. and have a good fight but life isn’t easy. I like the challenge and I think the fans want to watch this fight. As a fan want to watch this fight. I am happy to be here to fight in the U.S. and fighting for STRIKEFORCE.”
Q: Josh, everyone is talking about a third fight with Gilbert, how do you feel about this fight and do you feel this is a must-win for you?
Thomson: “I think they are all must wins, everyone talking about the third fight. The last fight I was thinking about the third fight but the biggest problem was I think that there were a lot of things going through my mind which showed in my performance. It was a really lackluster performance, nothing was put together right. I broke two ribs in the first round and everything went down hill. So this fight what I did was I wiped my mind clean of the title fight. Everyone is talking to me about the Gilbert fight, and I was letting that get ahead of my actually training. You hear athletes say all the time I’ve got to take care of this one match first, and if this doesn’t happen there won’t be a third fight with Gilbert, and I let that hinder what I was doing last time. I definitely won’t be thinking about the third fight. I will be thinking about what is in front of me.”
Q: JZ, Do you feel a lot of pressure going into this fight to impress people since your injury? What do you think of STRIKEFORCE’S other lightweights? How do you think you stack up?
Cavalcante: “I don’t feel pressure especially since people don’t know me and they don’t know what to expect, so there is no pressure at all. There is more pressure when people know you and expect you to do well. I have been through situations with pressure from the fans expecting things and pressure from myself. I am not putting pressure on myself to do well. I know my potential. I know I am training hard and have an excellent camp, almost the best in the world and I have great teammates. I just keep focused and control and try to keep everything balanced.”
Q: How do you feel now physically? Did the fight with Healy put you in a better place?
Thomson: “There is nothing I can do mentally that can help me physically. I just need to make sure that I am not overtraining, and pushing myself too much. I am trying to find the happy medium. I still have a lot of injuries from the last fight. So I have learned how to work around it and train around it. It is taxing on the mind mentally as far as making sure that you don’t get injured and there are a lot of things that I was not doing just out of habit, and I wasn’t kicking a whole lot. You train differently when you have a nagging injury, so that type of stuff was bothering me a little bit last night. But I have learned to work around it and not focus on it. I have been able to block it out and work around the things that I need to make it all work for my game for this fight.”
Q: Where do you think JZ is most dangerous in this fight? Where is your biggest advantage?
Thomson: “I don’t think either one of us have an advantage. He is a little shorter than me. We have completely different styles, so it’s hard to say who has the advantage. We are both really well rounded, he has great standup. Everyone wants to talk about mine but I hate to say it but he’s got phenomenal standup. He’s a great fighter. He’s got the fighter spirit in him and he will never give up. He will fight to the end. I think this will be a knockdown fight. I see this being a knockdown, drag out fight. I can’t say that anyone really has the advantage. I fight a little bit faster. He’s probably a little bit stronger. He probably has a little more power. Obviously I am going to try to beat him to the punch. Wrestling wise he is a little shorter so he will probably be a little harder to take down, those type of things play a big factor. I need to go out there and implement my game plan and get in his face and let him know that it’s going to be a fight for three rounds.”
Q: JZ, do you have any adaptations for fighting in the cage, since you haven’t fought in a cage in quite some time?
Cavalcante: “I train a lot in the cage. Most of my teammates fight in the cage, so I have been training with them. My game works well in the cage. Sometimes even better than in the ring. I think both the cage and ring have pros and cons but I always look for the pros in my favor. I am working hard and nothing is different. A fight is a fight.”
Q: STRIKEFORCE has recently signed three fighters. Is that the direction that STRIKEFORCE is going?
Coker: “We are working on building for instance the heavyweight division. Look at the heavyweight division we’ve built in 18 months. We are doing that in the lightweight, middleweight and welterweight division. We are looking to put on the best fights possible. If someone becomes available that we like we are going to try to get him. If it’s someone who has fought in the past and we think he will be a good fit now, we will bring him in. If they come available we will do our best to grab them.”
Q: Scott, is this a fight that falls into the title eliminator category?
Coker: “This fight made a lot of sense. Both of these guys are ready and it will definitely have title implications, and one that hasn’t been decided yet. Gilbert has been off due to injury for a little bit, and when he comes back we will see because he might possibly be fighting in Japan at the beginning of the year or possibly before the end of the year. There will be a lot of opportunity and in the beginning of the year we will probably have an announcement.”
Q: Josh, what is going with training camp and preparation for this fight?
Thomson: “I brought in a couple of other trainers, who have helped out a lot, so I have been working on my hands and I’m also working with a couple of some side guys on my kick boxing as well. I’ve been putting it all together and I have been working a lot on my wrestling as well. It is going to be interesting to see how the fight pans out. Everyone I have talked to about him said that he is far and away the best that they have there down at the gym and I know I have my hands full. You can’t come to a fight like this with a chip on your shoulder, and be arrogant about it. You have to go out there and be ready for everything that is going to happen. If I go out there and think that he can’t hurt me I am going to lose this fight. If he goes out there and rocks me in the first round your whole game plans goes out the door, and your mentality and everything gets ruined.”
Q; Are you going to look to keep it standing up, have you been working with wrestlers, on single leg, or take down defense?
Thomson: “You have to be ready for everything. He has heavy hands and has been known to come out with a couple big punches and get the take down. He will mix it up, he will go from stand up to take down. He has a good take down defense. You couldn’t ask for a more well-rounded fighter with heavy hands. He’s the real deal. He is the best 55 pounder in the gym, and Scott Coker knew what he was getting. He is the best they have to offer at the weight class and that is what I wanted, that is one of the guys I want to fight. This is a great fight for both of us. This is what the fans wanted and I think it will be a great fight.”
Q: Scott, How was much of this matchup was based on a style matchup?
Coker: “When you look at a matchup of this quality, you are going to see everything. You will see some stand up, some wresting, some submission attempts, and I think this fight will depict what mixed martial arts is all about in the years to come.”
Q: JZ, you have been working on your diet, what are some power foods you use for performance?
Cavalcante: “Wheat breads and green juice, a juice of apples and greens. My parents are naturalist so I have a good diet, and my mom has taught me a lot about it, and will give me new stuff to try. I think I have an advantage on those things in regards to cutting weight and gaining weight. Most of the stuff I eat is organic, foods with not a lot of chemicals.”
Q: Are you going to look for a submission in this match?
Cavalvante: “I am going to look for everything, and I want to say thanks to Josh for all the compliments. Both of us are complete fighters. I can come and fight, he can stand up go to the ground, he can take down. So I am not looking for anything in particular. Don’t miss the fight, I am looking to fight my hardest for 15 minutes. So when he makes a mistake I can grab it and win the fight.”
Q: JZ, how are you health wise?
Cavalcante: “I am feeling good. I fought in July. It was a good fight, I fought for 15 minutes, I felt a big rusty because of the injury, but now I am healthy. After that fight I am much more confident, mentally physically, everything is there. I am training good, thank God.”
Q: Is fighting in Josh’s backyard hard?
Cavalcante: “I am always fighting in someone else’s territory, and I know it’s different in Japan, everyone is quiet and respectful, where as here people are loud, screaming and booing. But a fight in a fight. I am so grateful I have a great camp. I’ve been through this with my corner men, and we have a strong connection and experience together. It is a mindset I am cool with that.”s
Kaufman: “Everything is going really well for this fight. This is another tough fight, STRIKEFORCE has been putting together these really tough fights. I fought Shayna and I fought Takayo and Roxanne was really tough, and now I fighting Marloes. She is another really tough opponent. So once this fight is over and if I am able to defend this title again, it will be good to have a break after that.”
Coenen: “First of all Sarah is a champion and everyone is asking me about dropping weight. Dropping weight is something I think I can do. I have a great team of experts, who are coaching me so I have a lot of confidence in that. And I really like Sarah’s style, she is serious and really goes for the KO, and that’s my style as well so I really think it will be a great match-up.”
Q: Sarah, you are one of several fighters on this card that will be moving up from the STRIKEFORCE Challengers Series to fight on a main card, how does it feel?
Kaufman: “It’s definitely where the title fight should be. And I feel that both Marloes and I are at a level that we should be getting this slot and we are going to be putting on a great show and I think people deserve to see it on a bigger stage. I am very happy to be fighting where we are on a bigger card for STRIKEFORCE on SHOWTIME and I think the fans will definitely enjoy the fight and I am not going to let them down.”
Q: Marloes, how do you feel about coming down to 135 pounds to take a title shot when you just had one at 145 pounds and couldn’t quite pull it off?
Coenen: “I think that in the Cyborg fight the ref stopped it too soon, and I think if the ref had been a woman she would have let it go longer. I am really blessed that I get two title shots in a row, and I am really grateful to Scott for that. I think dropping weight is something a professional MMA athlete has to do. So it’s just a part of the job.”
Q: Sarah, how do you feel about fighting Marloes after she just had a lost at 145 pounds and has dropped down to get a shot at you at 135 pounds?
Kaufman: “I am here to fight, and I think having a tough opponent in front of you is the most important thing. It doesn’t matter who they fought before, and where they just came from and I thought Marloes looked really good in the fight with Cyborg. Who knows how the different weight classes are going to affect how she fights. Maybe she is more aggressive. Maybe she is less aggressive. We will just need to see what happens. My training hasn’t been any different even though she is coming down from a heavier weight where she hasn’t fought before. My training has been just as intense and I am expecting just as tough of a fight as I’ve ever had.”
Q: Scott, what was the thought about putting this title fight together, as opposed to waiting for women’s tournament to play out, and bring Miesha Tate in?
Coker: “I remember watching Cyborg and Marloes getting on the scale and I was thinking Cyborg just looks so much heavier, and I knew that Marloes had to continue to eat to make the weight so we knew she could make the 135-pound weight. She comes from a great fight camp, and Sarah is a great fighter who has proved herself over and over. These are two great strikers. This is going to be an amazing fight, and we can do the tournament at the beginning of the next year sometime.”
Q: Sarah, how important was it to get the knockout in your last fight, after not having one for awhile?
Kaufman: “It’s the best fighters and the styles that are coming in, create or don’t create the opportunity to finish the fight. The three finishes I was happy and I would have loved to finish them but sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way based on how the other fighter is fighting. With Roxanne, the fight was going really well, and I probably could have pushed the pace a little more but when the knockout happened, as soon as I went to slam her, I had a feeling she was going to go out. I was obviously elated and it was definitely where I wanted to get to. It put that statement on. I am here and here to stay.”
Q: Sarah, you said take me off the Challengers card at the end of your last win, did that help get this on the main card?
Kaufman: “I think it’s important for fighters to stand up for what they deserve, but you also don’t want to make your organization look bad. But I am happy to have said what I said, and my fight backed that up. Whether it was me talking, my fighting, or the fans, it all worked together in helping push the division in having the title on the main card.”
Q: Sarah, is there a lot of competition in STRIKEFORCE for you?”
Kaufman: “I am really happy with the matches I have had. I fought all really tough people in my last four fights. There isn’t really much more I can ask for from STRIKEFORCE. I am excited to fight Marloes. It will be a good fight.”
Q: Marloes, has there been any weakness is cutting weight to 135 pounds?
Coenen: “I have two experts who are coaching me and have created a diet plan, and are telling me when to eat, how to eat and when to take vitamins and I will be on weight.”
Q: Scott, what is the situation with the 145-pound weight division. Who can face Cyborg?
Coker: “We think Cyborg will probably fight in the beginning of 2011. There are new girls that we are talking to every day. There is a girl who actually fights for M1, who is in the mix. There are also a couple girls from Romania, one from Hungary. It is no easy task to fight Cyborg but we will have a good match for her. We will have an announcement in a few weeks regarding Cyborg.”
Q: Sarah, what does it mean to you to get the respect to be on the main card now?
Kaufman: “It’s STRIKEFORCE title and they are putting it on their main card so they are showing the importance and value of the fight.”
Q: Sarah, how do you see the overall crop that STRIKEFORCE has, in terms of competition?
Kaufman: “The 135-pound division is probably the most stacked division of all the female divisions, so I don’t see the need to move divisions for now. If that is something that needs to happen later in my career it can be discussed then. I think there are a lot of talented females and there are enough women to fight.”
Q: Marloes, do you feel pressure being on TV to really put on a good show?
Coenen: “No if you step into the cage you come there to fight, and if I come to fight and l give my all. In a small venue with only 10 fans I will fight the same as I will in HP Pavilion.”
Q: Scott, someone said all the female matches have been exciting. Marloes said the last Cyborg fight was stopped too late. What is your opinion about that?
Coker: “That’s a tough one to answer, let the officials do the officiating and we will put the fights together, and I don’t want to touch that subject.”
Q: Scott, what does Josh Barnett’s schedule look like going forward?
Coker: “We have been talking to Josh for six months. He wants to fight Fedor, Arlovski, Alistair, Fabricio, and Big Foot. He wants to fight all those guys. Things got intense in the last 45 days and the last two weeks we realized he really wants to do this and we are happy to have him on board. If you look at the heavyweight division in STRIKEFORCE now, you realize there really aren’t going to be any easy fights. There are going to be some great heavyweight matchups and I am excited to put all these together.”
Q: Marloes, are you training a specific way in preparation for fighting Sarah?
Coenen: “The basics of the training camps are always the same, and a small percentage of your workout is devoted to your opponent. We have a special wrestling coach, and we work on wrestling techniques, and I train with a lot of guys who are smaller.”
Q: Are you going to try to make it a standup match and prevent it from going to the floor?
Coenen: “No, I think if you are an MMA fighter you should be ready for everything, so you should train everything. Sarah is a striker and I like to dish out as well. So I really think that a lot of time will be on our feet.”
Q: Are you injured from the fight with Cyborg, and how long did it take to heal?
Coenen: “I learned a lot from that fight and I stepped in and I was convinced I could KO her, and it didn’t work. The bruises in my face went away pretty quickly, after five days and I had an elbow injury. I don’t know how I got it and I had something on my left hand, on my knuckles. Everything has healed and I have proven to myself I can take a punch and in a weird way it really feels good. You learn more for a loss than a win.”
Q: Sarah, what is your sparing schedule like leading up to this fight?
Kaufman: “I leave it all up to my coach and we do a mix of everything, because it’s important to be able to do everything. Conditioning in the morning and sparing in the night, whether it’s grappling, MMA sparing for just boxing, or kickboxing. It’s pretty intense. Six days a week, you have to go hard and get prepared when you are fighting for a title.”