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Erin Toughill Talks Strikeforce Title Contention, Carano vs. Cyborg

Erin Toughill could be next in line to face the winner of Gina Carano vs. Cris Cyborg at a later date for the Strikeforce 145-pound women's title. That is, once a contract is finalized between her and the promotion.

Toughill, who was supposed to fight on the card and was said later to be a reserve, explains her absence from the card and shares her Carano vs. Cyborg pick in this exclusive interview with FanHouse.

Ray Hui: What were the contract issues that kept you out?

Erin Toughill: I really do not want to go into it too much, but it seemed my agency at the time could not get the ball rolling on a few things. Strikeforce announced me officially on their card, and I went out to Las Vegas to train for seven weeks at Randy Couture's gym in late May. The closer it got to my fight, I still did not have a contract or the monetary advance I needed to do my camp. I went into major debt in Vegas because I was living and training on my own dime, which was not the understanding. I don't think any fighter is going to lose a huge amount of weight plus go through a hard training camp without some type of guarantee or money to help them. I was not going to do that to my body and my mind anymore. I just could not pull the motivation out of a hat if I did not have something to work towards. Prior to that, we also had trouble finding opponents. I don't understand. There were a few girls that have fought at 145, and now saying they only fight at 135 now (Laughs.). But I have a feeling if they're offered a 145-pound fight with Gina Carano, they'll take it and come back up in weight. It's frustrating, to say the least. But I am a 10-year veteran of fighting, and I know sometimes these things happen. I will still be fighting for Strikeforce, but not Aug. 15th. I am working with new people, and we should have details finalized shortly. I can be patient because a better offer might be in store for me.

There were talks that you were being held as the reserve for Carano-Cyborg.

If Strikeforce could not find me an opponent, then I was scheduled to be on stand by. Again, I did not have a contract. I did not sign anything that would have given me that reserve spot, because I never received a contract from my agency, for anything. If I got a contract, I would not be in this situation. I would have been ready for my own fight or to be a stand-in. But that's not how it worked out, unfortunately.

Is it for sure that you're considered the No. 1 contender, that you're next in line for the belt?

From what I have been told, Yes. I have spoken to people from Strikeforce personally, and that is what they're bringing me in for: to build the 145 division and have me fight for the title. I am the next, real legitimate female opponent that would make sense for a title defense. They have rankings at and 95 percent of the time, I am No. 3 in the 145 division after Gina and Cyborg. I have only just started to fight at 145, so I don't have a huge issue with how the rankings are. I have fought better opponents than both ladies combined, but I have not been on TV yet, and sometimes it comes down to a popularity contest because the women's divisions are not as deep as the men's. I have tried to get fights with several of the women Gina and Cyborg have fought, and they've turned down fights with me. I have seen Marloes Coenen ranked above me, which having KO'd her a few years ago, makes no sense. I have even seen Kelly Kobald ranked above me, which is laughable. She lost a decision to Gina last year, but she has a record of 16-4 or something and has only fought three women with winning records, and lost to all of them. I have been trying to get her to fight me for years, and she's too scared. Those are the type of errors in rankings that I have an issue with. But all I know is I hope both ladies make weight, because if they don't, it wont be a title fight. And then if I fight the winner, then it will be us that fight for the first 145-pound title. So whatever happens, I am ready.

What is your ideal weight class? How do you like 145 as the weight class Strikeforce is focusing on for females?

My ideal weight class is not 145 pounds (Laughs.), but it is a feasible weight class for me when I do it correctly, and I have no issues fighting there. If that's where the money is and the titles, etc... I do my best to get there. I think 150 would be better for me, Gina and Cyborg, but its a weight class that "smaller" women can move up to and the "bigger" women can drop to. It makes sense for what they're trying to do right now. And I am just so grateful to be given the opportunity to fight for a show like Strikeforce. So no complaints from me.

How do you see the Gina-Cyborg fight going down?

I have said many times: If Gina comes ready to fight [five, five-minute rounds] and she comes mentally strong, she can win. I think she is the more technical of the two, has better footwork, and seems to rise to the occasion when she's in trouble, which I love. I'd like to see her use straight punches, a great jab, and not get into a slugfest wtih Cyborg. Cyborg's aggression is what can pose a problem, and I think if Cyborg gets Gina to the ground, Cyborg will have a advantage with her ground and pound and wrestling. Even though Cyborg is aggressive, she leaves her herself very open when she punches and she tends to be quite off balance when she attacks, from all her fights I have seen. I know who is working with Cyborg, and I think Gina has a better level of people and knowledge around her, but she has to. So I look for Gina to win by unanimous decision. I have fought many people like Cyborg throughout my career, but it would be fun to fight Gina because both of us would put on a technical fight.

Are you moving to Vegas for a new camp?

Yes, I am moving to Las Vegas to continue my training. My level of competition is growing, as well as my career in general. I have received more exposure, more training and more opportunities at Randy's gym than I was getting back home. In Orange County, I was working with Eric Paulson, who is one of the best I have worked with, as well as my striking coach, Brian Rauchbach. Brian is not as well known as some of the others, but I have stuck with him because he is an amazing striking coach and has so much knowledge. He's been around forever and learned from some of the best in boxing and MMA. Brian was always teaching me new techniques, which I love. It will be sad for me to move on, but Las Vegas is the epicenter of MMA right now, and I feel like I have a small window of opportunity to reach my goals in fighting. I have to really take charge of my career and do what's best for me, not for others. In Las Vegas, I have been working with Ray Sefo, and we really click. My ground coach is Neil Melanson, who also happens to be my boyfriend. He is a catch wrestler, much like Eric Paulson and Josh Barnett, so I really love his style because it's somewhat new to me since I came from a Sport Jiu-Jitsu background. Neil is currently training Randy Couture for his next fight against Minotauro, and was training Vitor Belfort before his Affliction fight fell through. I have been welcomed with open arms at Randy's and I feel so comfortable there. So many great fighters come to Xtreme Couture, and it's where I need to be. I have not even reached my full potential, so I'm very excited to see how my next fight plays out.

Would it be an issue if you had to fight Gina since she's also with Xtreme Couture?

No, there would be zero problem on my end fighting Gina, whether we are at the same gym or not. I have been friends with Gina for a while, and we have openly discussed it on several occasions. Everyone at Xtreme Couture knows I am in line to fight the winner from Aug. 15th, and if it's Gina, that's just the way it is.

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