MMA athlete Sarah Kaufman (12-2) of Victoria in the cage at Zuma Ultimate Martial Arts. Kaufman makes her UFC debut against Jessica Eye (10-1) at UFC 166 in Houston

MMA athlete Sarah Kaufman (12-2) of Victoria in the cage at Zuma Ultimate Martial Arts. Kaufman makes her UFC debut against Jessica Eye (10-1) at UFC 166 in Houston

UFC debut finally here for Victoria’s Sarah Kaufman

Sarah Kaufman embarks on UFC title campaign at UFC 166

Lunchtime workout sessions have ended and a group of men trickle out of Zuma Ultimate Martial Arts in Vic West. They laugh about the super high intensity training they’ve been put through by their mixed martial arts instructor Sarah Kaufman. But their faces don’t lie, as they wear a look that screams post-workout exhaustion.

Each thanks Kaufman for the class as they exit, and Kaufman returns the thanks in kind.

By day, Kaufman, the former Strikeforce MMA world champion, runs classes for adults and kids alike. She fits in hours of daily training for herself too, nothing new for the 28-year-old, Victoria’s highest profile MMA athlete.

But it’s been a while, to say the least, that Kaufman has been in discussions for another shot at the Strikeforce/UFC title. That shot is still not here but the road is being laid down in front of her. On Saturday (Oct. 19) Kaufman returns to the limelight for her UFC debut at UFC 166 in Houston, Tx. against fellow UFC rookie Jessica Eye (10-1).

“If you look at the division, Liz Carmouche is in her third fight (in November) since it started in February,” shrugged Kaufman, noting that yes, Kaufman did beat Carmouche during the Strikeforce years.

For a fighter who is not far removed from the distinction of former title holder, the UFC has taken its sweet time to put Kaufman back in the cage. She’s even slotted at No. 2 on the UFC rankings in its women’s bantamweight (126 to 135 lbs.) division, probably one spot below where she should be, considering she’s beaten the division’s most proven fighter except for standing title holder Ronda Rousey.

“They have used me for a number of promotional events but yes, I’d like to get another fight in this winter at the latest,” she said.

UFC company Zuffa purchased Strikeforce in 2011 and has since officially absorbed, and relaunched, the women’s bantamweight division. Kaufman, the good kid, isn’t afraid to speak her mind but has so far escaped the common UFC branding as a mouth with a fighter attached to it. There’s still time for that  though.

A win this weekend will put Kaufman into serious contention though it’s clear there is a final resolution coming between the Miesha Tate and Rousey rivalry, currently being played up on the reality television series The Ultimate Fighter.

“You never know with how they edit that show what’s really being said between them. Or when they’re going to fight, which seems due,” Kaufman said.

Though Kaufman hasn’t fought in the UFC she’s enjoyed being part of it. She was flown out earlier this year to UFC events in Calgary and Winnipeg, and to Toronto for the launch of Sportsnet 360.

“UFC is really well organized and your schedule is all laid out for the week you’re there to fight,” she said.

“The good thing about Houston is I don’t know much about it so I don’t expect it to be a distraction, which some cities can be when you’re there to fight,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman’s holds Strikeforce wins over UFC fighters Liz Carmouche and Miesha Tate, among others, while her only losses are to Rhousey and former Strikeforce champ Marloes Coenen (Netherlands), who has since departed the North American-based pro women’s MMA scene.

Kaufman wins at AFC 5 – 2011 in Victoria