Widely recognized as one of the most talented and dominant female fighters in the fight game, Erin Toughill is on a mission to bring home the Strikeforce 145 pound female crown, and establish herself as the premier athlete in her division in the process.
Of course there are those that criticized both Gina Carano and Cris “Cyborg” Santos for putting on a sloppy, albeit exciting performance in the most anticipated female contest in the history of the sport, but one would be pressed to find anything sloppy about the skill set of Toughill. On paper the 5’10” former American Gladiator could easily make a claim as being the most technical female striker in the business. A former top ranked professional boxer, Toughill compiled an impressive record of 8-2-1 while competing in the sweet science before setting her sights on MMA exclusively.
The road to the current path Erin is travelling with Strikeforce has not been an easy one. There wasn’t the same pot of gold at the end of the rainbow there currently is in mixed martial arts. The risks were high, and the rewards small. Toughill was cut from a different cloth, from the days when fighting a woman 100 or more pounds heavier than you wasn’t that far out of the question.
Of course, that was then and this is now, and as it currently stands Toughill is prime to break into the mainstream sooner rather than later as a title fight between herself and Cyborg is seemingly inevitable at this point. The 32 year old native of Chicago, Illinois has been licking her chops in anticipation of the day, with a Jack Nicholson-like expression on her face, thinking,’Wait’ll they get a load of me’.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com recently had the chance to catch up with Erin to gather her thoughts on fighting a Russian woman with a 150+ pound weight advantage, the current state of affairs in female MMA, being ducked by just about everyone and much, much more.
FiveOuncesOfPain: So you only have one real loss in your career to a Russian woman by the name of Svetlana Goundarenko. I recently took the liberty of looking her up and I found out that her last fight was in 2001, and she was amazingly listed at 6’3″, 330 pounds! I don’t mean to bring up bad memories as that fight was nearly a decade ago, but what can you tell me about that goliath of a woman as an opponent, and that fight in general?
Erin Toughill: Well, it was the second biggest tournament for women in MMA, ever. I think the first one was L-1 in 1996? What an amazing experience to be a part of. I recall seeing the women I drew in the first and second round, and I was shocked. Before Svetlana, I got a split decision win against her team mate, Irina Rodina. She was also on the Russian Judo Olympic Team, and she was 5’7″ and fought at 230 pounds…… it was not an easy fight [laughs]. I beat her and ended up losing to Svetlana, but I got in some good punches and kicks before she suffocated me with her boobs [laughs]. The winner got $100,000, so I was bummed I didn’t win of course.
FiveOuncesOfPain: There’s a woman that goes by the name of Marloes Coenen that I know you’re extremely familiar with. Now Coenen has recently made some news by claiming that she will be fighting Cyborg in her first title defense with Strikeforce; What are your thought on those claims being that most people anticipated for you to get the first crack at the winner of Carano vs. Cyborg?
Erin Toughill: Well, that might be the case. In terms of a fighter, she is as good, or better than Cyborg. In my opinion Marloes can beat Cyborg. Now in terms of being in line, I don’t feel she should be next. But if she is, then she is. As long as I’m active in between my title shot, then I can deal with it because I know my time will come.
FiveOuncesOfPain: Of course many people may not know that you have already faced, and knocked out Coenen during Smackgirl-World ReMix at the end of 2004; What can you tell me about that fight between you two?
Erin Toughill: Well, it was another tournament in Japan. Sixteen women in total. I TKO’d my first opponent in 27 seconds and beat Marloes in the 2nd round. I actually feel I fought conservatively due to the fact that if I won, I’d fight again after that. So I was pacing myself to fight three times in one night. She is a very good kickboxer, and a very dangerous fight for anyone.
FiveOuncesOfPain: Is there any reason for you to believe the outcome would be any different if you two were to meet again in the near future?
Erin Toughill: In my opinion, No. I have continued to improve my striking and ground game, and even though I was absent from fighting 26 months, I still trained. I won my last three fights in a row. With Marloes, as good a fighter she is, her past fight record has been somewhat poor.
FiveOuncesOfPain: What are your thoughts on the level of opposition Coenen has been facing in recent years?
Erin Toughill: It’s not top level. Roxy Modaferri is a top 135 pound fighter, but she’s way smaller than Marloes. Coenon lost to a pro debuter recently, and some other non competitive opponents. Look, I’m not saying I fought “top three” competition recently, but one was undefeated, and another was a vet who fought lots of top competition. Lots of girls turn down fights with me. Even though I now fight 145, I still get all these people saying I’m “too big to fight” them. Such a joke. If I weigh 145, then I’m in the weight class. I’m tired of the girls that are running their mouths, but won’t fight me.
FiveOuncesOfPain: There’s another woman by the name of Dandois that has thrown her name into the mix at Strikeforce recently. What are your thoughts on Cindy Dandois?
Erin Toughill: I commend her for taking on Marloes. We’ve spoken via email, and she seems like a nice girl and very respectful. On that note, I’m sure if she stays active and keeps winning fights she will get a shot with me one day. And when she’s does, I’ll be there.
FiveOuncesOfPain: Were you somewhat disappointed that you weren’t able to make an appearance on the “Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg” card, being that it would make more sense to promote you before you came out and challenged the champion?
Erin Toughill: Marketing-wise, the casual fan should get to know me first. Maybe that’s the plan with Strikeforce, we’ll see. Due to contract issues, I was not able to attend the event. Marloes took my place at the last minute. It all worked out the way it was supposed to.
FiveOuncesOfPain: It doesn’t really seem like anyone has been marketed properly to face off with Cyborg next. Would you rather get a tune-up fight before challenging for the title, or would you rather the masses get to know you in your first fight with Cyborg?
Erin Toughill: Honestly, I don’t really care. From a marketing perspective it clearly makes more sense to get me on TV once or twice before the title fight, but in MY perspective, I wanna fight right now!
FiveOuncesOfPain: So what were your thoughts on the Carano vs. Cyborg as a whole? Do you feel like it delivered?
Erin Toughill: I feel like Gina didn’t show what she was capable of. She did some great things, but messed up a lot due to nerves and breaking mentally. If she capitalized, she would have won. Not every fight can be amazing, I understand, and sometimes the nerves can mess you up. I’ve been there so I know. But from what I read, people were not happy with the fight. A lot of people said it looked like two rookies fighting. I don’t know. I just know I’ll fight whomever they put in front of me, and if its Cyborg, I’ll beat her.
FiveOuncesOfPain: I have to ask your thoughts on Cyborg. What did you take away from watching her championship victory, and what are some of the reasons why you win that fight?
Erin Toughill: Cyborg still looks technically poor, but just kept chugging along. Her wrestling and ground game looked very vulnerable. She claims that she does not get nervous, but it was very obvious that she does. When she entered the ring, she did a lot of things that showed she was frightened. I think I’m too big, too experienced, too technical, and I hit too hard for her. She’ll rush in on me, and that will be the biggest mistake she’s ever made.
FiveOuncesOfPain: Can you tell me a little bit about your inability to get fights in the past? Fights against solid competition, and just fights in general?
Erin Toughill: I have always had issues getting fights, always. First, I was too big. Now, I drop 25 pounds and I’m still too big [laughs]. I don’t have anything to say, really. I just would like to fight the very best competition.
FiveOuncesOfPain: I know it’s been incredibly difficult for you to be able to face some of the fighters you’ve wanted to face up until now. Who are some of the women you have extended invitations to fight that thought better of it in the past?
Erin Toughill: Seriously, all of them. Even the girls who now fight at “only 135”, but have fought 145 several times. “Bigger girls” don’t want to cut to get to 145, but now the “smaller girls” think they’re at disadvantage post weigh in. I think if you are a fierce competitor and true fighter, it doesn’t matter. Ten years ago we fought all different weights classes; it didn’t mater. We fought girls 20, 75, or even 150 pounds bigger. Now all these girls cry about a 5 or 10 pound difference. This new breed fights for different reasons than women like myself, Marloes, Yoko Takahashi, or Shinashi do. In my opinion a lot of girls fight because it’s “cool” or the “in thing” to do. Those types don’t last long.
FiveOuncesOfPain: You’re three fights in from your last layoff; How do you feel after three fights? Are your instincts and timing where they have been previously at this point?
Erin Toughill: Hmm, they were all different. I cut 20 pounds and had a 26 month layoff when I fought in November of 2008. I was too worried about the weight cut and I definitely had ring rust. How could I not? In February of 2009 I felt right on track. I was sharp, ready, and came out like I did in my Japan fights. In May, I was not happy. I didn’t cut weight how I would have liked to and I suffered a bit. I had a girl that had been training her ass off for months to fight me. She brought her A game, that’s for sure. I didn’t even fight well and I still kicked her ass. So as long as I’m on weight, no one can beat me when I’m truly on. In my next fight I’ll be at weight comfortably, and I’ll be very sharp and back to normal.
FiveOuncesOfPain: Where do you see female MMA in five, or even ten years from now?
Erin Toughill: Well, who knows. The whole sport could be gone, but I doubt it. As long as promotions get the best female fighters there are and put on competitive fights, it should do okay. I won’t be fighting in 5 years, but hopefully I’ll be cornering the next champ.
FiveOuncesOfPain: Thanks Erin. Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
Erin Toughill: Please check out www.neilmelanson.com, he’s my boyfriend and Randy Couture’s grappling coach.