Marloes Coenen is hoping to become a trendsetter.
The former Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion has a long history as one of the most talented and dangerous female fighters on the planet, and she's always been able to back up her talk in the cage.
"The Golden Girl of Golden Glory" hasn't fought ever since dropping her title to Miesha Tate last July primarily because of bad luck. First she got caught up in a managerial dispute which led to her release from Strikeforce and by the time it had all been sorted out and Golden Glory fighters were invited back, she was already in discussion with a new promotion.
Strikeforce's loss was Invicta Fighting Championships' gain, however, and the all-female promotion scooped Coenen up and signed her to headline the main event of its inaugural show, which takes place this Saturday (April 28, 2012).
Coenen will be battling French ground tactician Romy Ruyssen in a rematch from 2008 in which Ruyssen suffered her lone career defeat. The Golden Glory fighter spoke with MMAmania.com about hopefully inspiring more women to fight, leading by example and even why she believes Ronda Rousey still has fear in her heart in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You moved to 145 pounds after losing the title. Do you plan to stay at this weight for good?
Marloes Coenen: No, no, no. I'm a fighter. I fight with Invicta now and I'm exclusive to them but I'm open to any fight. When I started out, when I became Rings champion, it was open weight and I fought at ~70 which if I'm correct is 155 (pounds), I fought at 145, 135 and if you give me a good fight, I'll take it and make the weight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've said that at 145 you feel much more powerful with your strikes, so can you talk about the difference that you feel your fighting style has between the two weights of 145 and 135?
Marloes Coenen: It's pretty simple. If you look at Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey, Liz Carmouche, Sarah Kaufman, they're all like a head smaller than I was so if I have to make the weight, it's not only fat I have to diet, it's some of my muscle and if you lose muscle, you're less powerful. It's pretty simple. I've really noticed the difference now fighting at 145 and I'm way stronger than they are now. It's a big difference to me, that's how I know it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Was there any other way that dropping down affected your performance? Like did it affect your conditioning or anything else?
Marloes Coenen: Yeah, oh definitely. Every time I made the weight and then fought, I could tell that my body had issues with it especially the last time, but it was also because if I look back at 2011, I fought two times at the weight and in between I traveled a lot. Like really, really a lot. I fought in the beginning of March in 2011 in Ohio and then in the end of March I was in Thailand and from Thailand I went to San Diego and then from San Diego back to The Netherlands and then I had to be less than a month later for UFC Fighter Summit and then I came back and I already had to diet for another fight with Miesha. I didn't take care of my body good enough and I really think it affected me. I didn't realize it at the time but if I look back on it and I see what it has done to my body after the fight then yeah, I should have taken better care of my body.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): After the loss to Miesha Tate, you actually went out to Kansas to train with Eric Akin and Jason High. I want to know a little bit about your time there. How long did you work there and what was the experience like? How much do you feel like you were able to improve?
Marloes Coenen: Well, I trained a lot with Eric Akin. Actually, I hardly didn't do any MMA out there because I felt it was way different to what I do in The Netherlands but the wrestling was so amazing. I was like, "Okay, I can do wrestling here and MMA in The Netherlands." Eric Akin is an amazing coach and he really trained with me one on one and taught me stuff. When I go back to The Netherlands, the guys don't move like the guys in the wrestling in Kansas. It's hard to keep up that level what you've learned but I do notice a difference in my game now. My pressure is better and I stay lower, stuff like that. The stuff Eric told me, the basic stuff is still with me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you feel like this added wrestling to your game, is that going to be a big help against your upcoming opponent Romy Ruyssen because she was able to take you down.
Marloes Coenen: Yeah, yeah definitely. I always felt like my wrestling was okay but now I know it wasn't. (laughs) I knew the throws and everything like that but wrestling is not just the techniques of throwing, there's so much more to wrestling and I didn't know that. Thanks to Eric, I do know that now and I would love to go to Kansas, stay there for a while again and train there for a long time especially since that's the home of Invicta now. I love wrestling and I think it really benefits me in my fights now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Ruyssen, she's very good and she's only ever lost to you. Since that loss, she's gone 4-0 and finished all four of her opponents in the first round. How much do you think she's grown since the last time you fought her?
Marloes Coenen: Oh, I think she's grown a lot. She's very young also when she fought me so she had a lot of time to progress. I know she's very good in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and gi, she goes to Brazil to compete in fights and I've seen a lot of her fights from after she fought me and I was really impressed with her. She's a dangerous opponent, I know that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know that you love striking, so do you feel like with this added wrestling to your game, it will give you a chance to showcase your striking more? You were doing very well in the stand-up against her, it just wasn't for very long.
Marloes Coenen: Yeah and she tricked me with it going to the ground and fighting there but I think this time, I really want to beat her standing and then she'll have less energy to take it to the ground. You know, I made her tap out on the ground in the end anyways so I know my ground game is okay and I've made a lot of girls tap on the ground already so really the missing link was wrestling. It isn't good enough yet, I'm not a wrestler, but it's way better than it was.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you tell me of the importance of fighting in an all-female event for Invicta Fighting Championships?
Marloes Coenen: If there's only two girls on a fight card, people think, "Oh, they're probably freaks of nature," but if you have a full card of girls and also a wide variety of girls, like Liz Carmouche who talks and is a lot different than me, a lot of girls can relate to that and that really helps them to be fans of the sports. I honestly think there are moments in time that define the sport like when Kimura went to Gracie and what I think is Invicta is the next step.
My logic works like that but if you want to have mainstream audience, you should give the audience something they can relate to and if you only have very aggressive alpha male dudes, it's hard for girls to relate. If you have a card full of girls, maybe the girls watching can think, "Hey, maybe this is something for me." Maybe she doesn't start training but she can develop a love for the game. That's why I'm so happy with Invicta, that they have the guts to start an all-female card.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Earlier in your career, you competed with Smackgirl in Japan which was also all female fights. What do you think Invicta's done that has built on what those Japanese all-female promotions are doing?
Marloes Coenen: I fought for a variety of Japanese promoters but the thing is it's all about timing. When I started out, I thought the market would be better there but in Japan, if a girl is 26 and you're not married, it's almost like you'll never be married. You have to be married before you're 26 so the span of their careers are very short and then they become moms and once you become moms you will not come back to the game anymore.
So now, with America and the UFC blowing up really big with the FOX deal and Bully Beatdown on MTV, it's creating this momentum where everybody is more open to it. I also see in my own country. MMA has always been viewed as for people who are insane but now I'm being asked to be in a reality show with celebrities and the mayor of Amsterdam came to my gym to open it. It says something about that the general public is more open to it and our message well. This is what we need if we want to become an accepted sport.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I have a question here from a friend about developing talent in MMA. Men have sports like wrestling which are creating a ton of fighters. What sports do you think women will come from in the future, judo, soccer, what do you see?*
Marloes Coenen: Like soccer kicks to the head? (laughs) There are a lot of female wrestlers but what I also see now at my own gym is people are not starting as much from the judo background, muay thai, wrestling or karate, they're starting in MMA. That's what I think will happen with the females. They'll see us fighting, they'll hear about the sport of MMA and they start in the sport of MMA and what I think is the most important thing is gyms open to females. I think gyms should be mixed, not all female gyms because there's a real good synergy with men if they train together. I think the next stuff will come from there.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've had nearly half your wins come by armbar. How do you stay ahead of your opponent when they're adjusting they're game to beat your submission attempt. Are you forcing them to make bad choices or are you trying to attack at unexpected times?*
Marloes Coenen: You know what it is? When people ask me what I'm so good about in fighting, it's my flow. I can strike hard and I know how to throw people and how to put an armbar on the ground but people tell me when they roll with me that they do not notice I put on an armbar until I have it. Everybody knows I'm doing the armbar but they fall for it. Look at Sarah Kaufman. She slammed Roxanne Modafferi for a knockout but from the same position, why could I make her tap? It's kind of natural for me to do it.
I'm not like a Nick Diaz who has tons of techniques but the techniques that I do have, I really know how to do them good and I have a really good natural feeling. I think you should drill it a lot and the future will tell me if the girls can defend it or not. It's the same with Ronday [Rousey], you know what she's gonna do, run you into the cage and take you down and she will do that armbar. She even made Miesha Tate tap.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I actually had a question about Ronda, you kind of segued it for me. Ronda has that amazing armbar and she's so good with it even if you know it's coming. Do you feel like that will be an issue for Kaufman because obviously, you were able to hand her her only career loss with an armba?
Marloes Coenen: What it is with Ronda, she's a great judo fighter but what I see with her is the same thing I had in the beginning of my career. I had so much fear in my body that I fought really aggressive and that's the same as with her. Everybody is all "Ohh" and "Ahh" about her and her techniques are really good but I see she's fighting with fear in her heart and she will probably not admit it and won't admit it to herself but I really see the panic.
I'm very curious what will happen if Sarah can create the distance and make it to the third round because Ronda isn't used to fighting long rounds like that and it's different when you're fighting five minutes in the dojo and when you're fighting in the cage where everybody is looking at you and you have a lot of pressure on you and you have to back up the big mouth and everything.
If Sarah can make it to the third round, I'm really curious about what will happen. She just has to punch her hard in the face because Ronda isn't used to that as well. I don't want to take anything away from Ronda. She put on a hell of a fight and she has great techniques but yeah, I want to know what happens if somebody punches her hard in the face and can make it to the third round.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've said that one of the things that will help women's MMA make it to the mainstream is to have great role models. Do you think that Ronda Rousey is a good role model for women fighters?
Marloes Coenen: What Ronda does, if I'm correct she has like 50k followers on Twitter and I don't even have 9000 so she has the attention. People want to know stuff about her, want to follow her and that alone will bring a lot of attention to the game. The same goes for Miesha. They have a lot of followers. I'm a different person. They really work with the sexuality and it's not my thing.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've talked about how you want one of the last fights of your career to be a rematch against Cyborg. Why do you want that fight again so badly? Is it just to get a bad taste out of your mouth?
Marloes Coenen: No, no, no. When I was fighting my first fight in Japan, I was fighting Yuuki Kondo and I broke her arm and gave her a concussion and then in the last fight of her career, she wanted to fight me again. I was like, "Are you crazy?" but now many years later, I understand why. The last fight of my career, I don't care if I win or lose. I just want to have a hell of a fight so I can really close my career as a true fighter. That's what I am.
I know I'm a fighter because the first time I fought Cyborg I didn't give up. The referee stopped it and I really wanted to continue and Cyborg said I was the one that hit the hardest out of all of the girls. Ronda, she dropped and volunteered to go down to 135 because she didn't want to face Cyborg and that says something about your mentality. With me and fighting and this is why I like Nick Diaz so much. He's a true fighter. He really backs it up and he can take a punch, he dishes it out and he can do it all. That's the fighter I want to be as well and that's why I want to take on that last fight and go through hell one more time and then I can close my career.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you picture victory against Ruyssen in your upcoming main event fight for Invicta, what do you see?
In my dream, I will knock her out in the first round. Preferably with a knee.
Marloes would like to thank Invicta, her Golden Glory Team (who she says she's still loyal to unlike some "others" and she'll stay there until the end of her career). You can follow her on Twitter @MarloesCoenen.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Coenen inspire more female fighters? Do you think she has a point about Ronda Rousey?
*question submitted by Ben Thapa