by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
On Friday, December 8th Strikeforce will once again make history for itself. After becoming the first ever state sanctioned MMA event in California, setting a new American MMA attendance record with their first event in March, the promotion is now poised to host its first ever female fight.
In one corner will be Muay Thai specialist Gina Carano and in the other will be AKA/Cung Le-trained San Shou expert Elaina Maxwell, a fighter who is herself very familiar with making history, as you will soon find out.
Shortly after one of her final training sessions for the Strikeforce event, Maxwell spoke to MMAWeekly to discuss her fight, making history and what’s next for her flourishing career.
MMAWeekly: First off Elaina, for our readers that may not be familiar with you, give us some information on your background and how you got into MMA.
Elaina Maxwell: I first started off about 10 years ago, just doing cardio kickboxing, I took kickboxing for an off-season workout because I played collegiate volleyball. Basically I’m a volleyball player gone cardio kickboxing gone kickboxer and now I’m getting into MMA.
I have been training in San Shou kickboxing for the past ten years. I’ve been the World Wushu Games, [I'm a] three-time World San Shou Champion and right now I’m ranked Number 1 according to IKF [International Kickboxing Federation] in kickboxing…so now with the whole trend of MMA and being a student of Cung Le’s I’m just kind of fallowing in his footsteps.
After a while you’ve fought everybody in your weight class and then you start fighting the same people, so I just decided to get into a new style. I’ve also ventured into Brazilian jiu-jitsu under David Camarillo of AKA and Garth Taylor of Claudio Franca. With that said, I’m only a white belt, but I do jiu-jitsu more than two times a week and it’s been pretty helpful as far as using San Shou and BJJ and putting it all together. I have a lot of fun putting it all together and that’s why I’m really excited about Strikeforce.
MMAWeekly: How does it feel to be part of this upcoming show?
Elaina Maxwell: It’ll be my second MMA fight and I’ve always wanted to be on the same card as my coach [Cung Le], so it’ll be very exciting. The only downfall to it all is that he won’t be able to be in my corner. That’s okay though because I’ll have Garth Taylor and Paul Schriner and people like that in my corner, and I’m training with Cung Le, he’s been my coach for over 10 years, so I’m ready.
MMAWeekly: Getting into your upcoming fight with Gina Carano, many make fighters have come to our sport via a wrestling background, but for female fighters there isn’t opportunity in that arena. Coming from San Shou, do you feel that will be advantageous because of its integration of takedowns?
Elaina Maxwell: Yeah, as far as I’m concerned I’ve been practicing – not directly – wrestling within San Shou for the last ten years. There may not be too many females on wrestling teams across the nation, but as far as I’m concerned I have a one-up on my opponent because she comes from a Muay Thai background and I have more wrestling/takedown experience. She has Muay Thai with sweeps and stuff, but wrestling is a component of San Shou, so with that I have an advantage.
MMAWeekly: How has training gone for this fight and have you had an opportunity to train specifically for Gina or has it just been business as usual for any fight?
Elaina Maxwell: I’ve been training double-days for the last six weeks and I train jiu-jitsu six days a week and spar five days a week. I maybe take only one day off a week, but it’s important to listen to your body and if it’s telling you something, then it’s important to take the night or the morning off. That’s usually what I do; I never take a full day off. When I’m training six days a week and my body’s feeling it, I’ll usually take the morning or night off, I only have one full day off a week.
I don’t really like to train specifically for a person because I’m limiting myself and not only that, but I don’t have any footage on her. The only footage I’ve seen was on Fox Sports Network, old footage, nothing that’s new to me. So I’m not training specifically for her, I’m just trying to improve my overall game and improve my weaknesses.
What I think is that she doesn’t have much ground, so with that said…well…I don’t really want to tell you my gameplan [laughs].
MMAWeekly: Having said that, without giving anything away, what can fans expect to see from you on December 8th?
Elaina Maxwell: I’m a pretty aggressive fighter…it just depends…I just listen to my corner and see what happens. My fight’s going to be pretty short because in the state of California they only allow women to fight two-minute rounds, so our fight is only going to be three two-minute rounds. I think that’s super weak, I think we should fight at least three’s or four’s.
I was training for five’s but I found out the last time I fought in August that they don’t allow women to fight for more than two minutes in California, so that was kind of a bummer. So [this time] I’ve been training for two-minute rounds, but since we only have a short period of time I’m going to go balls-out. I want to be the aggressor and I don’t really think it will go to a decision, I think it will end in a knockout.
MMAWeekly: This will be the first ever female fight in Strikeforce’s MMA history. How does it feel that they chose you for it and that you’re one of the fighters they’re banking on to make the event a success?
Elaina Maxwell: I’ve actually done quite a few things where I’ve made history or I’m a female San Shou pioneer fighter. I was the first female MMA bout sanctioned in California; I was the first American – men or women – to win gold at the World Wushu Championships.
I’ve done a lot of things where I made history so I’m very excited and honored that Scott Coker [Strikeforce Promoter] has chosen me to be a cornerstone or pioneer in the state. There’s a lot of other female MMA fighters out there that would love to be in my spot, but I think a lot of them are pretty happy with me too.
MMAWeekly: Should all go well at Strikeforce, what are the plans for the coming months as we head into a new year?
Elaina Maxwell: Actually I usually take it one fight at a time and to be quite honest a magazine asked me the same question, they asked, “What’s next after Strikeforce?” and I’m like, “My birthday and the holidays [laughs].” I’m very much looking forward to that too. There’s so many cards I could get on, WFA, KOTC, Malice at the Cow Palace, there’s offers on the tables, it just comes down to dollars and cents.
MMAWeekly: The more dollars they offer you, the more sense it makes right?
Elaina Maxwell: Yes [laughs]. I do plan on fighting more in the future and I’m just going to take it a fight at a time. I’m also getting into grappling tournaments and BJJ tournaments…on December 17th I plan on competing on the California State Championships in San Diego. There’s MMA shows, grappling and BJJ events every weekend, so it’s just a matter of picking and choosing which is better for me.
I also like competing with my team [the USH! Fight Team] too. There’s about six of us professional fighters on the team and I like it very much when we all can get together on the same card. With that speaking, we are going to fight at the ICFO’s on February 10th of next year; I think they’re going to call it the “Stockton Showdown” or something at the Stockton Arena in Stockton, California. I’m looking forward to fighting on that card because my first time fighting for them they took care of the four of us that fought on that card very well.
MMAWeekly: Great stuff Elaina, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. Is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?
Elaina Maxwell: I don’t have that many sponsors right now, I am looking for sponsors but I do have a couple I’d like to thank…Knoxx Gear, MTP, Score Clinic in San Jose, and of course I want to thank my coaches, Cung Le, Garth Taylor and David Camarillo.
I’ve been in San Jose for over 10 years, so I’m looking forward to fighting in front of all my friends and family. A message for the fans…come out, it’s going to be a great show. I know it’s close to the holidays, but it’s gonna be 10 great battles, three title fights and a chick fight. So check it out, it’s going to be sprawl ‘n brawl.