Dancer-turned-MMA dynamo packs a punch

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

It's the opportunity of a lifetime for Victoria's Sarah Kaufman.

The undefeated 22-year-old has been quietly destroying her competition in small shows for the past three years.

Every one of her eight victories have come by knockout or TKO.

This Friday, she steps into the big leagues.

An injury to Kim Couture, wife of former UFC heavyweight champ Randy "The Natural" Couture, forced her to pull out of the Strikeforce Challengers event in Fresno, Calif.

Kaufman got the call to replace the first lady of MMA and take on fellow rising star Miesha Tate in the co-main event.

"This is a big step for my career," says the 135-lb. power puncher. "I know (Tate) has good wrestling and she's been pretty active. She's probably going to want to take the fight to the ground and I'll want to stay standing, so it should be an interesting matchup."

Kaufman came by her passion for MMA by accident.

A dancer since she could walk, Kaufman spent her youth as part of a company performing in musicals, dancing to everything from ballet to jazz to hip-hop.

A few years back, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Adam Zugec opened an MMA school in the same building where Kaufman practised.

She decided to take an aerobic kickboxing class.

'COMPETITIVE BY NATURE'

"I'm very competitive by nature, so I just pushed myself and eventually started competing in grappling tournaments," says Kaufman.

"An opportunity to fight came up, so it just seemed like the next logical step. There wasn't anywhere else I could go with dance unless I wanted to turn professional, so I put the dancing aside."

Being a lifelong cardio nut has helped her in the cage.

"I have the ability to put a lot of punches together because my conditioning is always really strong," she says. "I let my hands go and, at the same time, I don't mind taking a shot to give a shot."

Tate, regarded as the favourite in a battle against Couture, is now the underdog.

And that suits her fine.

"I think (Kaufman's) in for a surprise because she's probably figuring that she's beaten opponents that fight similar to me. But she hasn't fought me yet," says Tate (6-1).

Fighting Kaufman is a step up for Tate, but she says both fighters have the opportunity to make a name for themselves in women's MMA.

"There is more out there than just Cyborg and Gina Carano," says Tate.

"They've been getting all the attention. We're going to show that we can be included with those two names."

The fight will air on Showtime.

JOSE.RODRIGUEZ@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos