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Marloes Coenen: Winning a Title Again Would Be Life-Changing Experience

Marloes CoenenThe first time Marloes Coenen won a mixed martial arts title, she was a 19-year-old girl from Holland, fighting in Japan, and winning a title motivated her to decide to try to fight for a living, rather than go to a university.

That was in 2000, and neither Coenen nor anyone else had any idea of how much MMA would change over the next decade. But as Coenen prepares to fight Sarah Kaufman for the Strikeforce 135-pound women's title on Saturday night, she says she's motivated by the opportunity to earn a second championship belt.

"It was so different then," Coenen said. "This was an open-weight tournament for the ReMix World Cup, and the rules were different and there was a tiny Japanese girl fighting a Russian girl who was 330 pounds. Ten years ago, when I won that title in Japan, I had so many hopes and expectations, and now if I could win another title I would feel like it's the beginning of a new decade."

The fight with Kaufman is actually the second time this year that Coenen will fight for a Strikeforce women's title. She lost to 145-pound women's champion Cris Cyborg in January, but she said that for that fight, she wasn't thinking much about the idea of winning a championship belt. This time she is.

"When I was fighting Cyborg I was really looking forward to it because of the challenge, not as much for the title," Coenen said. "But this time it's really a big deal to me. I really, really want to win the belt."

Coenen says she and her trainer at the Golden Glory gym, Martin de Jong, have been closely studying Kaufman as an opponent, and taken a special interest in Kaufman's last fight, in which she knocked out Roxanne Modafferi with a brutal slam.

"She knows how to knock someone out, so I respect that," Coenen said. "I loved it. I really loved it."

But Coenen, an expert grappler who's one of the best female fighters in the world at fighting off her back, says that slam doesn't worry her.

"Roxanne held on for too long," Coenen said. "I'm not afraid of that at all. I'd either let go or I'd get the arm bar done faster. I wouldn't hang on like that. That's a grappling mistake and everyone can make mistakes -- maybe I would as well -- but it's a mistake I think I could avoid."

Kaufman has at times questioned whether Strikeforce is committed to giving its female fighters the same level of promotion that its male fighters get, but Coenen says she's been thrilled with her relationship with Strikeforce and Showtime, which will televise her fight on Saturday night.

"Strikeforce is the only big organization that really pushes women, and they've shown confidence in me to fight on televised cards, so I think Strikeforce has done a great thing," Coenen said.

And Coenen, who has fought professionally in the Netherlands, Japan and Switzerland, said she thinks American MMA fans are the best in the world.

"There are still some cases where women only become popular if they're cute, but I think most American fans realize that there are a lot of women who are athletes in this game and that we train just as hard as the men do and we should be respected in the same way by the audience," Coenen said. "American fans are more knowledgeable than fans in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, we know the Thai boxing, but when the fight goes to the ground, the fans don't understand it. And then in Japan it's just a completely different culture. You fight over there and they're very quiet. I think the American fans are way more advanced than other audiences."

Coenen is hoping that the American fans see a belt around her waist on Saturday night.

"To me, winning a championship again would be a life-changing experience," she said. "It's really important to me."

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