It happens every month: as I’m preparing for my next Play with the Pros sport I fantasize about showing up and, without any training, just being naturally gifted at this new athletic endeavour of mine, leaving everybody’s jaws on the floor. These delusions of grandeur are extremely unhealthy, I know.
I have zero fighting experience under my belt. My brothers and I were unusually civil – we threw the odd punch as kids, and that’s about it. And despite my inexperience, I imagined I could step into the cage with mixed martial artist Sarah Kaufman and defend my honour. I can’t. At all. And that really doesn’t surprise me.
Before we square off she teaches me the basics of offensive and defensive MMA skills: how to throw a couple punches, land some kicks and – most importantly for me – how to block her strikes.
All that training flies out the window once we start sparring. I know she’s barely trying, but reality sets in immediately that even with her giving little effort, I’m totally and completely outmatched.
Kaufman has more than a decade of experience training in mixed martial arts. Pound for pound, she’s currently ranked 7th in the world for female MMA fighters by MMArising.com, with a 16-2 record, and one no contest. Her impressive resume should have been enough to convince me not to do this.
We touch gloves, and I can barely get my hands up to protect my head before I’m crying for mercy. She’s fast and powerful – two things I’m not. She’s strategic and observant, and immediately assesses my greatest weakness (my shamefully low pain tolerance for being kicked in the leg).
“For a beginner you did really well. It’s hard if you’ve never done a fighting, contact sport before. Your body just doesn’t know how to move, so the natural instinct is to cover up and not get hit, which actually gets you hit more,” she says.
Had she actually been trying: “You would’ve been done within about 15 seconds. I’d let you swing once and then I’d hit you a bunch of times. I’d leg kick you, and while you were upset about the leg kick, I’d knock you in the face.”
I have no troubles seeing that scenario play out exactly like that in my head. Any fantasies I had of coming in and excelling at MMA have literally been beaten out of me.
What the pro knows
Kaufman, 28, is currently training for her next fight, April 16 in Quebec City.
She’ll compete in The Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale women’s bantamweight bout versus Shayna Baszler. The two women competed once before, in June 2009. Kaufman was awarded a unanimous-decision win for that fight.
The Victoria-based fighter describes real competition as “a physical chess game.”
“You start seeing how they react, you keep doing that same thing, and then all of a sudden you’re able to go into something. … It’s trying to make someone move in a way they think they’re defending, but really it’s you forcing them to do it.”