The best pound-for-pound fighter to ever come out of the Island is competing to win a cool US$1,000,000.
Victoria Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) star Sarah Kaufman is one of eight women selected to fight in the Professional Fighters League (PFL), which offers the winner a US$1 million prize.
The PFL is a unique MMA tournament, where fighters compete in a regular season earning performance points, with the highest scorers facing off in a knock-out tournament, culminating in a New Year’s Eve final.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to be part of the first female division at the PFL and it’s a chance to have potentially four fights and win the million dollars within seven or eight months,” says Kaufman.
“I’m actually going up two weight classes, normally I fight at 135 pounds and this is 155, so it’s going to be quite a different experience.”
It is almost unheard of for a fighter to become a champion in a weight-class two divisions higher than their normal class, but what Kaufman might miss in brawn, she makes up with talent and experience.
Boasting a formidable record of 20-4, Kaufman faces competition with far less experience. Despite Olympic gold medal winning judoka Kayla Harrison installed as the bookies’ favourite, Kaufman is confident of rising to the challenge should they meet. Unusually for someone of her weight-class, Kaufman possesses formidable punching power, with half her wins coming by knockout. She is also one of the few women in Canada to hold a Brazilian Jiujitsu black belt, widely regarded as the most difficult belt to attain, in the world’s most devastating martial art.
Kaufman hopes to rely on her pedigree as a former Invicta FC and Strikeforce bantamweight champion, as well as her experience competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) against legends of the sport Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko and Miesha Tate.
“I love what I do, my body is great and I feel at my peak. I only want to be in this sport to be the best in the world. I don’t need to do it to make a living, I do it because I love it and winning a million dollars is just a bonus. It’s a hard sport, you’re putting yourself at risk every time you step in there,” she says.
Kaufman has consistently been rated as one of the top fighters in the world, and while she is grateful to be competing in the PFL tournament, she says she has unfinished business in the UFC, where her career stalled following a bad car accident. Pundits have speculated that a return is likely if she has a good tournament, and Kaufman herself thinks she would be a strong top-five contender in the competition’s 135-pound division.
While reluctant to think too far ahead, Kaufman hopes to stay down to earth if she wins the money. She’ll keep her day job coaching all ages and abilities at Zuma MMA gym, but has promised her training partners a celebration.
“I’ve talked about holding a pizza party,” she laughs.
Kaufman joins Kayla Harrison, Genah Fabian, Bobbi Jo Dalziel, Svetlana Khautova, Roberta Samad, Larissa Pacheco and Morgan Frier in the competition. Kaufman’s first fight can be watched on Thursday, May 9 on TSN 2 at 9 p.m.