Just a couple of days before her title defense on Friday night's Strikeforce: Challengers event, unbeaten Strikeforce 135-pound champ Sarah Kaufman's mind was on "cookies and man parts."
Those seemed like the only two things, Kaufman (11-0) wrote in a blog entry on PrettyToughFighter.com, that would get her off the Friday night Challengers shows and onto a main Strikeforce card.
"I am currently the Strikeforce Women's Welterweight Champion...yet I fought for the title on a Challengers Card. Now, I am set to defend said title against Roxanne Modafferi in just a few days – again – on a Challengers Card," Kaufman wrote.
"I know that it's going to be a fun and challenging fight...and I always welcome that. Roxanne has been around the sport for a long time and will come game to fight; however, I need to take this fight and make a statement. That statement will be: I deserve to be on a main Strikeforce Card because I am a talented, exciting FEMALE fighter at 135lbs! I will NOT eat a ridiculous amount of cookies to make 145lbs JUST for the opportunity to be on a main card and growing man parts... well that would just be ridiculous :D"
It doesn't quite qualify as inflammatory, and yet it also doesn't sound like someone who's pleased with the way her employer is treating her.
"I don't want it to be taken out of context," Kaufman told MMA Fighting when asked about the blog entry. "All I really meant is, for me, holding the [135-pound women's title], I'm the only title-holder that's fighting on the Challengers card. All the guys are fighting on the main cards for their titles, and [Cristiane] "Cyborg" [Santos] at 145 [pounds] is fighting on the main card for her title. That's my goal, to be fighting for a title on the main card."
And so, this is how Kaufman came to the conclusion that only cookies and man parts could help her. The 145-pound women's champ gets to defend her title in the big show, as do all the male champs (for the record, Kaufman clarified that she was in no way suggesting that Santos has man parts, though some people may have initially interpreted remarks that way), but the 135-pound women's champ gets treated like an afterthought for some reason.
"I really don't know why that is," Kaufman said. "I don't know if they're worried about me not having a big enough fan base. I can't say. I can only speculate."
Some of the speculation on the internet centers on the fact that Kaufman, whose last three fights have ended in decisions, doesn't have the flashy finishing ability of Santos, or the Hollywood looks of Gina Carano. Strikeforce has shown a willingness to promote both those women as heavily as some of the male fighters on the roster, but Kaufman, whose last fight was a somewhat plodding five-round domination of Takayo Hashi, has to keep fighting for peanuts on the small-time Challengers cards.
"Yeah, my last three fights have gone to a decision, but a fight goes two ways," Kaufman said. "To me, when I first finished that fight [against Hashi], I felt like it wasn't that great and I wished I could have done more, but she just wasn't there for me to fight. She was defensive the whole time, which made it really hard."
Now, five months later, Kaufman defends her title against the highly-regarded Modafferi, and yet it feels like there's been very little promotional muscle put behind the fight thus far. Showtime sent out a press release with a Kaufman highlight reel earlier this week, but if you didn't catch that you might not even know the title fight was happening this Friday night.
There's also a financial consequence to being stuck on the Challengers card. As Kaufman points out, sponsors want the exposure that comes with a main card appearance on a Saturday night Strikeforce event. Both may air on Showtime, but Challengers, with its lackluster lineups and inferior production values, doesn't get anywhere near the viewership of the more mainstream Strikeforce shows.
"You get bigger paydays if you're on the main card as opposed to the Challengers card, and those are supposed to be some of the main reasons why it really matters to have the title," Kaufman said. "As of right now, I can't live off of fighting. Being ranked number one and being the Strikeforce champion, you would hope there'd be enough financial backing to be able to sustain myself as the number one in the world at 135."
At least for the foreseeable future, that's not happening. Kaufman will have to continue working 60 hours a week teaching classes and running the front office at the gym where she trains, and defending her title may be something she only gets to do twice a year in front of relatively paltry crowds.
This is where the frustration comes in, and with it the blog posts.
"I don't want it to be put out there that I'm fed up with Strikeforce because that's definitely not it," Kaufman said. "I think that Strikeforce is really trying to get the female fights, which is great, and they're planning the [135-pound] tournament. But what I'm saying is, if they're having the tournament for the title shot on the Challengers card, the title fights shouldn't also be on the Challengers card. It should be a build-up to a fight on the main card in my opinion. ...I feel like the Challengers cards are touted as up-and-comers, but if you have the title, you've kind of made it, haven't you?"
In theory, that's the way it works. In reality, it looks like it's cookies and man parts or else Challengers and meager paychecks. At least for now.
In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.