Former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Sarah Kaufman is set to make her Invicta Fighting Championships debut on April 5 against Leslie Smith, and she’s looking for a finish.
Kaufman (15-2), who is under UFC contract, was granted permission and encouraged to take a fight at Invicta FC 5 while awaiting her UFC debut.
“Zuffa (parent company of the UFC), Dana White and Sean Shelby (UFC matchmaker) have a really good relationship with Shannon Knapp (Invicta co-founder) and are allowing fighters, if they don’t have a fight at the time. The UFC at this point didn’t have a fight date for me, so I wanted to stay active and get back in the cage and Invicta gave me that opportunity,” Kaufman told MMAWeekly.com.
“Invicta has done an amazing job over the last, just over a year really, and has really had a huge impact on the public perception and visibility of women in this sport. They’re putting on amazing fights. They’re giving great opportunities to people and I’m honored to be a part of their organization for this next fight versus Leslie Smith,” added the former 135-pound titleholder.
Kaufman is coming off a loss to UFC women’s bantamweight titleholder Ronda Rousey. She is more experienced than Smith (5-2), but isn’t taking the Cesar Gracie trained fighter lightly. She hopes her experience will be a factor in the fight, but isn’t banking on it.
“I hope it is a factor, but you can’t rely on that. She’s been fighting for quite a while. Even though she doesn’t have necessarily as many fights, I’m sure she’s been in training and put her time in. I’m not going to take her lightly just because she has fewer fights than me,” said the 27-year-old Canadian.
With UFC fights in her future, Kaufman feels the pressure heading into her Invicta debut, but points out that there’s always pressure to perform.
“I think every fight is an important fight and the UFC is kind of the biggest stage. You want to perform well going into their cage and into their Octagon. But really every fight is as important as the last. It’s actually more important than the last,” she said.
“There’s only so much pressure you can put on yourself. In the end, you always want to compete at your best regardless if it’s for a small, local promotion that has 10 people watching or if it’s in Invicta that has a great following.”
Looking at the bout with Smith, Kaufman feels the stylistic match-up favors the potential of an exciting fight.
“I know that she’s game. She comes to fight. She’s really tough. She doesn’t back down from any challenge, and that makes for an exciting fight for both the fans and me as an athlete,” said Kaufman. “I know it is going to be an exciting fight regardless of what happens just based on both of our styles. Our style match-up is going to showcase a really exciting, fan-friendly fight.”
She’ll take a win any way she can get one, but Kaufman is hoping to put her striking on display and is going in looking for a finish.
“I think that she’s there to get hit, and I definitely like hitting. That shows in my favor that it could end in a knockout or a TKO or even a submission,” she said.
“I’m going in there and I’m going to be headhunting and body-hunting and really trying to use those hands and the skills that I’m known for and the skills that I’ve been working on for so many years. Leslie is tough, but if it goes to a decision, it is going to be an exciting one. I’m hoping for a finish.”
Invicta FC 5 takes place on April 5 at the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City. Invicta FC atomweight champion Jessica Penne (10-1) will try to defend her title in the main event against Michelle Waterson (10-3). The fight card also features Vanessa Porto (15-5) vs. Barb Honchak (7-2) for the vacant flyweight title.