Like the rest of us, UFC bantamweight Sarah Kaufman wants and needs certain things. Yet, unlike most people, Kaufman is all too happy to be as vocal, candid and in your face as she needs to be to get what she thinks she's owed.
Kaufman, who last fought at The Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale in April where she defeated Leslie Smith via unanimous decision, doesn't have her next fight scheduled yet. At least not one in the UFC. But if you follow where things have been for her on social media and the media in general, she's been doing all sorts of battling with her contemporaries.
"To be fair, I've always been somewhat vocal about things I want," Kaufman told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "When I fought Miesha Tate the first time, it was the girly three-minute rounds. [We] made a stink, 'We don't want to fight three-minute rounds. There's no reason. Let's fight five'. When we were on the [Strikeforce] Challengers card for the title, vocalizing, saying 'Look, I want to be on the main cards. I want to be on the Challengers cards'.
"I do think that I'm not someone who can make something up. I can't pretend to dislike someone. I can't pretend to have a beef with someone, but I am honest with myself," Kaufman continued. "I think I'm just getting more comfortable giving my honesty and saying what I truly believe and what I think I deserve, and trying to get people to know that. To get the fights that I want, that I need and what the fans want."
As the sport of MMA has seen in the last few years, some fighters can use candor and even shtick to get career effect. Others fall flat in what are obviously phony attempts at stirring up trouble. Kaufman, however, says whatever she's doing, it's working.
"Any time you're getting people online to say that they hate you and think that you suck, you're probably doing something right," she explained. "'Oh, you're whining! You're this! You're that!' Anything they can complain about. 'You're a boring fighter!' Whatever they want to say, whether I know it's true or not. They have a feeling about you.
"Jessica Eye fans, Miesha Tate fans, whoever they are, those people want them to win, want me to lose. Great. They're going to buy the fight, they're going to watch the fight," Kaufman concluded. "Then there's lots of supporters who are really excited by it and are just hoping I get the fights that are going to get publicity and notice."
Kaufman knows who she wants to fight (more on that in a moment), but she's been spending a fair amount of energy online battling with a previous foe. Kaufman fought Jessica Eye in her UFC debut at UFC 166 in October of 2013. More recently, the two have traded barbs online for any number of reasons, but Kaufman says she's merely responding to Eye's attacks, not the other way around. And besides, she claims she only responds when she can understand what it is Eye is even saying.
"I think that it's pretty hard to like her," Kaufman declared. "She comes off as really arrogant. She kinda doesn't shut her mouth a little bit. She doesn't come off very intelligent at all. Half the time I don't even know she's insulting me because she spells words wrong and I literally don't even know what they mean.
"And then someone else kinda makes fun of her. 'Oh, she was trying to call me catty, but instead she said caddy, like a golf caddy.' Most of her stuff goes right over my head most of the time until someone else brings it up. So I find it pretty funny, but also, she's a lot to handle."
Entertaining as it may be, does this mean Kaufman wants a rematch with Eye? After all, Kaufman initially lost the bout, but the result was overturned by the commission when Eye tested positive for marijuana.
"At this point, I don't think it's really a fight that helps me go anywhere. Yes, there could be some hype behind it, but I think that Jessica needs to get a win," Kaufman surmised. "I want to fight someone who's on a win right now. I want to fight someone who helps me get to my rematch with Ronda [Rousey]. And fighting Jessica at this point, coming off of a loss, doesn't move me any higher up in the rankings. That's something that right now that I need, that I want. It is a fight that I want back. I want to knock her out so badly, but I believe that she needs to win first and move up the rankings to be worth my while."
One might wonder why Kaufman would even engage with someone who she has no intentions of competing against. The Canadian says it's simply because she's unwilling to take things lying down.
"I'm someone who is going to stand up for myself and to have Jessica her five cronies who kinda jump on the bandwagon, to have all of them barraging me with tweets, I'm not just going to sit back and let that go," she explained. "I don't want something that I truly believe is wrong and hilarious to read. If it comes about, it comes about, but the fights that I want are fights with Cat [Zingano] and with Miesha [Tate]. Someone who is above me in rank, coming off of a win who gets me my title shot."
Or, as Kaufman puts it succinctly, "I should've had the win on my record. She's just lucky she doesn't have a loss."
What Kaufman does want are two things: either a fight with Cat Zingano or Miesha Tate. As she sees it, she wants a bout someone who is coming off of a win, available and ranked higher than her. Those two fighters satisfy those conditions.
The question is do those women want a fight with her? Kaufman says Tate has expressed interest in interviews, but never seems to chirp about it otherwise.
"She's said in, I don't know, at least three interviews that I've seen where she's been on camera saying she wants Gina Carano, Holly Holm or Sarah Kaufman. Gina Carano, at this point, isn't around. Holly Holm is injured and both of them aren't signed to the UFC at this point.
"'You'll be waiting,' and that's all I said. You've said you want this fight, why would you now go back on that or why would you pretend that you haven't said that when you said it quite a few times?," Kaufman wondered. "Either it's something you want or it's something you don't want, but say so either way. If you say my name just to say, but really I'm the last on your list because you don't want to get knocked out, well, don't say my name then."
As for Zingano, no one really knows where she's at given the past year of tragic events both in her personal life and to her body. Kaufman isn't sure what UFC has planned for her, but as she sees it, it makes more sense for her to move to the front of that line.
"I could see that they're trying to save her for sure, but I don't know, if it was me coming into a fight, yes, maybe the title shot right off the bat, but you haven't fought in over a year. She's gone through a lot in her personal life as well, as well as the rehab. I would think that she'd want to get back in there and get a feel for it again. Maybe that's just my thoughts. They might save her, but with Ronda already fighting in July, she's probably not going to fight again until at least late fall, early winter. Does Cat really want to sit out another six, seven months? As a fighter, I wouldn't. I'd want to take a fight."
Besides, said Kaufman, she thinks the styles match up in such a way to make for a bout that would benefit not just either fighter, but the fans, too.
"I think it's always exciting to fight someone new and someone you haven't before," she said. "And I think that the Cat fight would be a really exciting fight. It'd be stand-up, it'd be wrestling, it'd be grappling, it'd be a full fight that the fans could get behind and really exciting to see."
That's what Kaufman wants, but some other folks want Kaufman. There's been some interest expressed by management in a bout opposite Sara McMann, but it's nothing Kaufman thinks makes sense right now.
"That's the thing: she's coming off of a loss," Kaufman explained. "I signed up to fight McMann last year, she's coming off of a win, I was coming off of a win. That fight made sense. I think she had some personal reasons that I think made her pull out of the fight and then she got a title fight, which for her, unfortunately, she lost. But by losing a title fight, you kinda go to the back of the line.
"I've been in that position," Kaufman continued. "I fought for titles. When you lose to the champ, you go to the back. I've been working my way back up, now in that top 5 ranking and I want to make my push for that title shot. I need to fight someone coming off of a win and not someone coming off of a loss. Fighting McMann right now doesn't help me out."
In this business, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you want something, you have to say so and you have to say why. Say it enough and you just might get it.
"As I say, it's literally a matter of the rankings and who's on a win right now, who's above me and who I can pick off. Alexis [Davis] is in a fight with Ronda. She's taken up," Kaufman said.
"The only two people above me with wins are Cat and Miesha."