by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Just over a year and a half ago, Cung Le student Elaina Maxwell had an opportunity to put her name at the forefront of the women’s MMA scene when she took on Gina Carano in Strikeforce’s first-ever female bout in December of 2006.

Billed as the first sanctioned female MMA bout in California history, the rematch of their previous kickboxing bout went above and beyond anyone’s expectations, becoming a fight of the year candidate, gender regardless.

Despite having Carano in trouble during their bout, Maxwell could not finish her opponent off, and in the end lost via decision and watched as her opponent went on to become the mainstream face of women’s MMA.

Determined to make her own mark in the sport and not be a footnote to someone else’s stardom, Maxwell has pushed herself hard to become a complete fighter. She returns to a feature bout on the Strikeforce card this Friday night as she takes on Washington native Miesha Tate in a bout slated to be broadcast live on HDNet.

“I’m feeling really good,” said Maxwell heading into her Strikeforce return. “I’m coming off a fabulous training camp.

“I’ve had tons of high altitude training, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, takedowns and, of course, stand-up with coach Cung Le. I am ready to go.”

While Maxwell’s name may be more familiar to MMA fans, having fought in high profile fights, Meisha Tate will be making her first appearance on a major, live broadcast event.

Still, Maxwell has familiarized herself with her opponent and has set a sound strategy for their fight Friday night.

“I know she has a good background in wrestling, having wrestled four years in high school, but I’m working towards my purple belt in jiu-jitsu, so I know what to do on the ground,” she explained.

“I’ve been working a lot on my wrestling and scrambles with Cung and the other wrestlers in the gym. I’m ready to go on the ground, ready to stand-up, ready to do whatever it takes.”

Maxwell knows this could very well be a make or break fight for her if she wants to be considered one of the top female fighters in the world and get the opportunities that other women have been getting of late.

“Seeing that fighting has been my life the last 10 years and I’ve put all my spare time into this career, it means a lot to me personally,” she explained. “Of course this fight is really big for me; as is every fight I’ll have in my life, but yes, to date yes, this is probably my biggest fight.

“It is very important for me to showcase my skills, get my name out there.”

Should all go well Friday night, Maxwell looks to remain busy this year and continue to further her career, even if it wasn’t what she had originally intended for 2008.

“I wanted to go to the Olympics, but due to political issues I probably won’t be going,” admitted Maxwell. “San Shou was going to be a demo sport and I really wanted to be a part of that.

“When one door closes, another one opens, so I plan on getting back into the cage later this year one or two more times. Right now, however, I have my eye on Miesha Tate, and I don’t want to look past this Friday.”

With MMA’s mainstream exposure at an all-time high, female fighters are beginning to get the sort of opportunities that their male counterparts have long enjoyed.

With an opportunity to showcase on a major card live on HDNet with possible exposure on NBC’s Strikeforce Saturday night show placed before her, Elaina Maxwell is looking to blaze her own path and be recognized right along side some of her more well-known contemporaries.

“I’d like to thank my sponsors: Sprawl, Takedown, Scion Toyota, Super Shuttle, AC Capital, Conquer Wear, CR Flooring, Sport Clinic, GFY Gear, KNOXX Gear, and of course my gym Universal Strength Headquarters,” she closed out.

“Please come out and check out the Strikeforce show this Friday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. This time I’m ready emotionally and physically and I’m coming to fight.”