Coenen, Santos fight for respect

Marloes Coenen (right) lands a jab against Roxanne Modafferi at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers on...

Marloes Coenen (right) lands a jab against Roxanne Modafferi at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers on Sat., Nov. 7, 2009. Coenen challenges Cristiane Santos for the women's lightweight title in one week's time at Strikeforce: Miami. (Esther Lin/STRIKEFORCE)

NEIL SPRINGER, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 3:21 PM ET

Female mixed martial arts contender Marloes (Rumina) Coenen has a message for women everywhere: strap on the gloves and start fighting.

"It's very important that women start fighting," Coenen said on a Strikeforce media conference call. "I think it really helps women. If you start fighting, you feel stronger in your mind and, physically, you're stronger than you thought you were. That will help you in your daily life."

Coenen (17-3) is set to challenge women's lightweight champion Cristiane (Cyborg) Santos in the Strikeforce: Miami co-main event on Jan. 30. The show will be headlined by a bout between Nick Diaz and Marius (The Whitemare) Zaromskis that will leave one of the two crowned as Strikeforce's first ever welterweight title holder.

As Coenen and Santos (8-1) get ready to go to war, they both hope their bout inspires more women to take up martial arts.

"Every woman that is fighting in MMA right now is playing an important role in the sport," Santos said through a translator. "I hope to inspire fans and can't wait to train little 'Cyborgs' around the world. I'm just excited to be a part of it."

Since so few women are competing in MMA at the moment, both fighters admit good female training partners are hard to come by.

"I only train with men," Santos said. "I usually hurt the women."

Though Coenen and Santos are fighting for a title, neither gets the mainstream attention of fellow Strikeforce competitor Gina (Conviction) Carano.

Carano (7-1), who suffered a TKO loss to Santos in August, has long been the face of women's MMA, posing for photo spreads in publications like Maxim and ESPN The Magazine. Recently, she even landed the lead role in Steven Soderbergh's upcoming spy thriller, "Knockout."

Though she's a talented fighter in her own right, Carano's looks have played a large role in her popularity.

Coenen hopes fans will start paying more attention to female fighters' abilities than their physical assets.

"With women, we're always judged by our appearance, and you see that in tennis with (Anna) Kournikova," she said. "It's almost like Gina is the Kournikova of MMA. I hope there will be girls out there and our level of fighting will increase that much where people talk about our fighting skills, instead of the beauty that we do or do not have."


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