Fans were left wondering what was next for Cris “Cyborg” Santos after the 24-year old Brazilian dismantled previously unbeaten superstar Gina Carano in the first round of their August 2009 Strikeforce title fight. Enter Golden Glory’s Marloes Coenen, a teammate of Alistair Overeem’s at the Mecca of Dutch kickboxing with a professional record of 17-3 and twelve submission wins to her credit.
The two female fighters sat down with media during a conference call related to their January 30th bout and addressed a number of topics, including how each felt about the state of women’s Mixed Martial Arts and whether or not they felt the current emphasis on physical appearance was unfair.
“It’s just like with anything else that women do – their appearance is very important. However, it’s not what’s going to make you win a fight or not. It is your talent and what you’re doing in the ring that matters the most. I hope we move past that,” said Santos.
“I agree with Cris,” continued Coenen. “I think it’s because it’s just a young sport and people don’t understand it’s a sport that everyone can do. Women can do it, men can do it and you can start at a young age. With women, we’re always judged by our appearance, and you see that in tennis with (Anna) Kournikova. It’s almost like Gina is the Kournikova of MMA. I hope there will be girls out there and our level of fighting will increase that much where people talk about our fighting skills instead of the beauty that we do or do not have.
“I’m from the Netherlands. MMA is getting way more popular every year. You see children doing fights at 8-years-old or 10-years-old, so by the time they’re sixteen they’ve got like fifty fights under their belt.
“My goal is that I hope I never have to do office work again. I just want to stay a professional athlete. It’s very important that women start fighting. When I grew up it wasn’t an option for a girl to fight. There was some judo but not too much around here. I think it really helps women. If you start fighting, you feel stronger in your mind and physically you’re stronger than you thought you were. That will help you in daily life. I just think it’s very important that we have some messengers like Gina, like Cris and, hopefully, myself that will inspire women to do it, to think that ‘if they can do it, I can do it,’ and start working out.”
Santos echoed Coenen’s aspirations, saying, “Every woman that’s working with MMA right now and every woman that’s fighting plays a very important role in the sport and where the sport is going to take (female fighters). I really hope that I have a lot of fans out there and I hope to train little ‘Cyborgs’ all over the world. I’m just excited to be part of it.
“I wasn’t thinking about who is the face of MMA when I fought Gina. Gina was just another opponent like anyone else. With me being the face of women’s MMA or not, I’m just going over there and doing my job, making sure I’m training hard and leading up the pack for all women in MMA.”
Inevitably discussion turned to the actual match-up at hand set to take place on January 30th in Miami.
“I don’t really think much about what’s going to happen. I just go in prepared for whatever comes. (Marloes) can bring it, so hopefully she’ll be prepared for war too,” replied Santos when asked how she envisioned the action unraveling.
Coenen responded with a bit more detail, saying she felt it was going “to be a tough fight because Cris is an amazing athlete…a real powerhouse. I know that everything I do is good. My standup is OK, my ground game is OK. I really think we’ll both bring it and go toe-to-toe and give the audience what they’re expecting.
“I know I’m considered the underdog, but I think hardcore MMA fans know what I can do and what I’m capable of. I hope that my last fight was a demonstration of that. To be honest, I don’t really care what people think. I will show them in the cage.
“I know people are really focusing on my ground game, but I know my standup is really good and my striking is really OK because I dropped Roxanne (Modafferi) with one punch and I’ve KO’d girls before with just one punch. I know my standup is OK and I know Cris will find out about it.”
Though neither woman went overly into discussing how they’d prepared for the upcoming bout, each did share a similar training technique – working with their male counterparts inside the gym.
“For me, I usually train with men because there are not that many good women that do MMA (in the Netherlands)”, said Coenen.
Santos’ explanation for the practice, however, was different to say the least.
“I only train with men. I usually hurt the women,” responded the Strikeforce champ.