Once widely respected as one of the best female mixed martial artists and professional boxers at the same time, Erin Toughill has recently rebounded from a two year retirement stint in MMA and expects to cause some serious shock waves in the not so distant future of Strikeforce‘s female division.

Much like most of the other mixed martial arts fans that happened to follow the sport way back in 1999, Toughill had no clue that there were actually other females out there that were involved with this type of thing. A true pioneer of female mixed martial arts in very sense of the word, Toughill jumped at the opportunity when it presented itself.

“I actually was not aware women even did MMA,” revealed Toughill in an exclusive interview with FiveOuncesOfPain.com. “I had been watching the UFC from its first show, and thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. I met my first Trainer, Sean McCully, through mutual friends. At eighteen, I had gotten into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but trained with Sean on and off for a while after. He saw something in me and asked if I wanted to fight. I figured I’d be doing KickBoxing, but he asked me to participate in an MMA fight in Aruba when I was barely twenty two. I said, “What the hell!” And it unrolled from there.”

“I was scared as hell! I was in no shape to be in there with this animal. She was tough as nails and had many more fights than I was aware of. I look back at the footage and think, “Wow, look at this chubby twenty one year old girl!” I was still drinking & smoking heavily while I was training. I got a draw with Irma, and if it had turned out different, I might not have fought again.”

Fight again she did, amassing an impressive mixed martial arts record of 7-2-1 before stepping away from the sport she had grow to love in the latter portion of 2006 due to circumstances against her control.

“The 2006, 2007 layoff was, at the time, not my choice,” explained Toughill. “I was with someone who did not support anything I did, and was fearful about any success I had or was to achieve. I needed a break, in a sense, that I continued to fight after my sister and dad passed. I actually won a ten round GBU boxing title six weeks after Megan died, and the latter part of 2007 was also due to this person trying to control and manipulate my career. I could not see it until I was away from this person, but toxic is what comes to mind. Latter 2007, was me trying to find out who I was again after so many realities I came to know were destroyed, it was very surreal. I did not have the energy to train and just took care of me and getting away from this person. Early to mid 2008 was when AG came around. I spent months focusing on that, and getting settled.”

“I still wanted to compete, but girls did not want to fight me, or I was too big. So my agent Ken Pavia asked me to fight at 150 lbs in November of 2008 [laughs]. I lost twenty two pounds and won my comeback fight. If the money is where Gina is, then that’s where we decided to go.”

Toughill will be the first to admit that after a two year lay off she had become a victim of the much dreaded ring rust in her return to MMA just five months ago. Ring rust or not, her opponent Jan Finney did not come to the fight to roll over and the hard fought battle let Toughill know exactly where she was, and where she needed to go with her game.

“I could have stopped her, but I think I was too conservative with my energy,” said Toughill. “I wasn’t sure how I would be losing all that weight. At the same time, Jan is a tough cookie. She hung in there and put up a great fight. It didn’t end with a stoppage, but it let me know exactly where I was taking a two year layoff.”

The former professional boxer got back to her roots and showed that the ring rust had evaporated in her most recent return to the cage in February when she dispatched of Karen Williams with a brutal TKO in the first round.

“I did not care who I was going to fight,” said the heavy handed knockout artist. “Adrienna Jenkins was the original opponent, but pulled out due to injury. They changed my opponent a few times. First I was a lower weight, then I was a higher weight, when all was said and done, I lost thirteen pounds in five days. I do not like cutting weight, but I came out for the kill and that’s what I did.”

“I hit very, very hard, and these girls have no idea what it’s like to be hit by someone who can punch. I thank Karen for stepping up last minute, but these girls think this stuff is simple with all this BJJ and hand slapping. I have stopped most of my fights by knockout and TKO, any girl who fights me better be prepared to be hit, and hit hard.”

If everything goes as planned Toughill will be completing her current contractual obligations when she faces off with an undefeated prospect in May before making the logical move to Strikeforce.

“I am fighting Friday May 8th, 2009,” said Toughill. “This will be my third and final fight for the Tachi Indian Casino. I am fighting a 4-0 BJJ girl, Emily Thompson. She’s going be in for a rude awakening.”

It’s nearly impossible not to notice the many different parralels and contrasts between the careers and fighting styles of Toughill and another much talked about female fighter. A fighter who has become synonymous with female mixed martial arts during Toughill’s time away from the sport.

“Gina, Gina…..I love Gina,” admitted Toughill. “We really have a lot in common, and I am happy for her success. She has opened the door for female MMA, and I am truly thankful for that.”

“In the same note, I would be just as happy to fight her. I think Gina is talented and has the potential to be a great all around fighter. But in my opinion, I will beat anyone. I don’t care who I fight, my destiny is to win.”

With an inevitable move to Strikeforce on the horizon for the immensely talented and marketable athlete, an eventual showdown with Carano may not be that far off in the distance. If not Carano, there is definitely one other female fighter that many fans would love to see Ms. Toughill go up against.

“Cyborg poses a different problem, but a puzzle we will be able to solve,” explained the Chicago native. “Her people know I will be the most legit fighter she could go against. This fight will be happening in 2009, I do know that.”

“I will be signing with Strikeforce this summer and we will see what unfolds. Whether it’s Gina, Cyborg or anyone else, I take no one lightly. When I first started, because of how I looked, people took me lightly. And then when I beat them, they probably thought different. You never know what a person will bring to the ring, but you need to be prepared no matter who it is.”

“I would like to Thank Ken Pavia and the rest of the boys at MMAAgents.com. They have all really worked hard for me, and have been a great addition to my life and career. I would like to thank Warrior Wear and GreenMedica.com. I want to thank Brian Rauchback, Josiah & John Marsh, from Lotar, helping me and dedicating their time to me so I can be the best. I want to thank My Mom and friends who have been there for me. Last but not least, I want to thank Mo Lawal who has become a great friend and training partner for me. We’re probably two of the most opposite people [laughs], but we have a great friendship. Go to: www.erintoughill.com and www.myspace.com/erintoughill for pics, bio and info on my career!”