Ronda Rousey is generating plenty of attention ahead of her Strikeforce bantamweight title defense Saturday, but challenger Sarah Kaufman believes people may be overlooking her ability to take the champion’s belt.
“They’re forgetting that I had the Strikeforce title,” Kaufman told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “They’re almost looking at it like, oh, I have no fights and I’m just some scrub who’s getting put in the cage and I’m going to get killed in five seconds. You know, Ronda’s only had five fights. Looking at that, on paper you would think that I would actually have the advantage, but people are clearly on the Ronda hype train, and hype really changes how people perceive fights.”
Rousey’s ascent in MMA has certainly been a rapid one. A bronze medalist in judo at the 2008 Olympics, she became a Strikeforce champion after just five professional fights when she submitted Miesha Tate in March. Her media rounds ahead of her first defense have included a photo shoot for ESPN the Magazine’s The Body Issue and an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show on TBS.
“Ronda has done, and been able to do, a lot of really good things when it comes to extra media and things that get people talking,” Kaufman said. “ESPN Body Issue and ringing the bell [at the New York Stock Exchange] -- there’s just a lot of things happening that should get coverage, and I’m glad they have gotten coverage.”
Meanwhile Kaufman has been overshadowed, though. She might spark more attention if she were willing to spar verbally with the outspoken Rousey, but that’s not her style.
“I’m trying to hype the fight in a way that I deem appropriate for myself,” Kaufman said. “I’m not going to make something up or get caught in a word battle because that’s how I think a fight has to be hyped. There’s so many ways to hype a fight. I’m really looking at this as I’m coming back. I’m the former champion, lost my one fight. I’ve made my way back. Ronda got kind of a gift in stepping over me and got the title fight with Miesha. She won the title, and now I want to win it back. To me, that’s an interesting story and it’s an exciting story for fans to follow. I don’t think there needs to be verbal trash talk and bashing each other personally or as athletes to make this fight exciting or make people want to watch it.”
Kaufman is complimentary of Rousey, praising her composure, her competitiveness, and her submission ability. At the same time, however, Kaufman doesn’t think Rousey has fought strong opposition outside of Tate.
“I don’t necessarily consider those wins to be nearly as substantial as beating Miesha, who is definitely a better opponent, but Miesha’s beatable,” said Kaufman, who outpointed Tate in May 2009. “She’s been beaten three times. I fought Miesha. Again, it’s a great win against a well-known and well-respected fighter, but Miesha’s just not on the same level as I am in different areas that I think will counter Ronda’s ability to have her game go her way.”
In Kaufman’s view, Tate either used a poor game plan against Rousey or let her emotions affect her -- and still had some early success in the fight before getting submitted. Kaufman’s confident she can capitalize in ways that Tate could not.
“If people want to kind of overlook me and think that I’m just going to get stepped on really fast, that’s great for me because I’m considered an underdog and who doesn’t like being an underdog?” Kaufman said. “When you win, it’s that much better.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:58:35).