Canadian Sarah Kaufman left on outside looking in on showcase women's MMA fight

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Women's MMA is in the spotlight thanks to the Strikeforce title fight between bantamweight champion Miesha (Takedown) Tate and (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey.

Canadian fighter Sarah Kaufman isn't celebrating, however.

The former 135-pound champion from Victoria is on the outside looking in at a title fight she expected to be involved in.

Kaufman (14-1) finds herself back on the undercard of the March 3 show in Columbus, Ohio, fighting Alexis Davis of Port Colbourne, Ont. Tate and Rousey are the main event at the Nationwide Arena.

"I really believe — and I think a lot of the fans who know the sport believe — that I should be the one fighting for the title," Kaufman said. "I've put in my time. I've been their champion. I've only had one loss and I've had two good wins since then.

"That should be enough to get my title shot back."

She will have to wait while Showtime, which airs Strikeforce in the U.S., showcases the brash-talking, charismatic Rousey in a "sexy and tough" title matchup.

Both women can fight. But Showtime is making the most of their appearances with a slick video noting "It's not just looks that can kill."

"Pumped 4 this fight!!," UFC president Dana White tweeted in posting a link to the Showtime video which is titled "sexy promo" on YouTube.

And when Tate and Rousey were featured at a recent UFC show, commentator Joe Rogan suggested their matchup might be the "hottest" title fight ever.

The 26-year-old Kaufman, who beat Tate in a 2009 non-title bout, says she understands image matters, "but it's hard to sit and have the fight entirely pushed on looks.

"There's just not a lot of substance if that's what they're turning females in the sport into — is in order to get pushed, in order to make it, you have to wear skimpy little dresses.

"It's a hard thing. Marketing is marketing. It's what's worked for pushing this fight, I guess."

The main event spotlight is rare for female fighters.

The UFC, which owns Strikeforce, doesn't have a women's division. White has long said there just isn't enough talent.

There have essentially been two faces for the women's side of the sport.

One was the photogenic Gina Carano, who has since gone on to make movies ("Haywire"). The other was the muscular featherweight Cris (Cyborg) Santos, whose most recent 145-pound title defence was derailed by a positive steroids test.

The Brazilian was subsequently suspended for a year.

Kaufman won the bantamweight title when she defeated Takayo Hashi in February 2010 and defended it in style five months later, stopping Roxanne Modafferi when she knocked the challenger senseless by dropping her on the canvas.

But the Canadian lost the championship belt next time out, submitted by Marloes Coenen in October 2010. Coenen was then beaten by Tate in July 2011.

Kaufman believes she deserved to be next for the champion. But while she waited for her shot, Rousey was making waves.

The former Olympic judo bronze medallist posted a string of first-round wins in 2011. Her four fights have lasted a total of two minutes 18 seconds, each ended by a nasty armbar.

For Kaufman, Rousey (4-0) is an MMA novice who talked her way into a title shot.

"She made noise and they listened," said Kaufman.

And Tate (12-2), while a more experienced fighter, has chosen what to showcase in her arsenal.

"Miesha's always put in her time but she's always presented her looks as her thing," said Kaufman. "I don't present my looks, I kind of present my attitude and the fact that I'm an athlete and a professional athlete."

Adding insult to injury, Kaufman has been downgraded to the undercard — she says she was originally slated to be on the main card.

"I am very disappointed and feel a little bit stepped on because I really have tried to push the sport and tried to push myself, without too much help from different promotions and from other sources," she said.

"Media always helps but I feel like I've had to do it a lot of my own against this kind of constant back pressure, almost. But all I can do is keep winning. Hopefully I get a fast knockout, (that) would be awesome. But whatever happens, I want the win and with that win I have the guaranteed title shot."

"So that's what I need. If you keep winning, you can't get denied being put in the big light. That's my goal. Just make waves, make waves with my skill," she added.

Kaufman is no stranger to feeling left out when it comes to fighting.

She complained loudly after finding herself on four straight Strikeforce Challenger developmental cards before being upgraded to a major Strikeforce show in 2010.

Tate and Rousey have done their bit talking up their fight.

Tate has dubbed her opponent "rookie Rousey," calling her brash, immature, and lacking in class.

Rousey told one interview: "It's more annoying than chewing tinfoil, hanging out with that chick."