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Sarah Kaufman Says Fighters Need to Stand Up for What They Deserve

Strikeforce 135-pound women's champion Sarah Kaufman will get her wish when she takes on Marloes Coenen on the main card of Strikeforce's next big Showtime event on October 9 in San Jose, and she has no regrets about what she had to do to make it happen.

"I think it's important for fighters to stand up for what they deserve," Kaufman said on Friday afternoon's Strikeforce media call, responding to questions about her post-fight remarks following a victory over Roxanne Modafferi on a Strikeforce Challengers card in July.

"You don't want to make your organization look bad, but if your issue needs to be said, I'm happy I said what I said and I think my fight kind of backed that up," Kaufman added. "Whether it was me talking or the fans reacting or the fight itself getting highlighted on ESPN, I think they all worked together in helping push the division and have a title [fight] on the main card."

That title fight pits the undefeated Kaufman against a Dutch challenger who posted a loss in her last outing – a 145-pound title scrap against Strikeforce champ Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos – only don't try telling Coenen that she doesn't deserve back-to-back title shots in different divisions.

"The criticism mostly came from the women, who said, 'Well, Marloes should first fight Miesha Tate and then take on Sarah,' but a lot of people forget that I'm already fighting for ten years. Ten years ago I won my first world title, so I do think I've proven myself and I've proven myself again by taking on Cyborg. I don't feel that the criticism is fair or does justice to what I've accomplished already."

Though Coenen suffered a third-round TKO defeat at the hands of Santos, she said she still feels the bout was stopped too soon and could have gone differently if a female ref had worked the bout, as in the case of Santos' most recent title defense against Jan Finney in June.

"About the Cyborg fight, I think the referee stopped it too soon," Coenen said. "After the fight I said to my trainer, 'If the referee was a woman she wouldn't have quit it that fast.' And when Cyborg fought again the referee was a woman and she definitely didn't quit it too fast. Maybe a little bit too late."

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker defended his decision to shuffle Coenen into a title fight directly after a loss, and said he noticed during the weigh-ins before her fight with Santos that she might be better off in the 135-pound division.

"I remember watching Cyborg and Marloes get on the scale, and [thinking] Cyborg looked so much heavier, and Marloes had to continue to eat to make the weight, so we knew she could make 135."

As for the 145-pound champ, Coker said an announcement is forthcoming on her next title defense, adding that it would most likely come in early 2011. As far as possible opponents go, Coker hinted at a possible match-up with 4-0 fighter Cindy Dandois, saying only that he was looking at "a girl with M-1 who had a good fight with Marloes Coenen back in the day."

Also on Friday's call, lightweights Josh Thomson and Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante discussed their upcoming meeting on the October 9 card in a fight that Coker said would "definitely have title implications."

The fight will be Cavalcante's first in the U.S. in over three years, but the fact that most mainstream American fans don't know what he's been up to during his time in Japan only helps take the pressure off him, he said.

"I don't feel pressure, especially because most people don't know me. The regular fans...they don't know what to expect. So it's no pressure at all. I think the more pressure is when people know you and they expect you to do so well and so good. I've been through all those things."

As usual with Thomson, much of the talk centered around his history with injuries and a potential rubber match with current Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez. Thomson said he's been training around the injuries he sustained in his last fight with Melendez and in his most recent win over Pat Healy in June, but added, "[t]here's nothing I can do mentally to feel better physically."

The most helpful thing he can do, Thomson said, is to enter this fight without worrying about when he might get another crack at Melendez.

"With everyone talking about the third fight, for the last fight [against Pat Healy] I was thinking about the third fight. Like, I'm going to get through Healy and then maybe one more tough fight and I'll get my title shot and get back to my title. But the biggest problem was, I think there was a lot of stuff going through my mind in that fight and I think it showed in my performance. It was a really lackluster performance. Nothing was put together right. That, with the added, I broke two ribs in the first round, everything fell downhill. For this fight I wiped my mind clean."

Coker deftly dodged a question from Cavalcante, who took advantage of a lull in the conversation to ask the CEO when he would sign fellow American Top Team fighter Jorge Santiago, but he did touch on some of the organization's recent acquisitions, such as heavyweight Josh Barnett and welterweight Paul Daley.

"We're just going after the best heavyweights in MMA. The biggest and the best heavyweight division now I feel is in Strikeforce. We look at the heavyweight division we've built in 18 months, and we're doing that in the lightweight division, the middleweight division, the welterweight division. I mean, we're committed to putting on the best fighters. If a fighter like Paul Daley becomes available, once he cleaned up his little situation in Canada, you know, we're going to grab him."