Erin_Toughill_Exclusive_Interview

KALIN: You started out fighting Vale Tudo, but then did some boxing before really fighting consistently in MMA.  How did you get involved with boxing?

ERIN: I got startedad in boxing to stay busy because in 1998 and 1999 there wasn't really women doing this.  When I started training I wasn't aware that women were doing this.  My coach at the time was going over to Japan and he fought there and they had been doing it there for a couple of years.  He had some good connections there.  They brought me over and that's when I did some of those tournaments that I was involved in.  The boxing was really just to help my training and stay busy.  I never had the intention of being a boxer, but I couldn't just fly to Japan every month.  I ended up beating girls, doing pretty decent, and then I competed in both sports for several years.  Later on in my career it was to hard to go down the path of both and I chose MMA over boxing because I enjoy that more.

KALIN: You talk about how you went to boxing because there wasn't a lot of opportunities for you women in the early days of MMA.  What's it been like for you to see the growth of the sport?

ERIN: In the last couple of years I don't like the evolution of the sport.  I've been around as long as some of the guys or longer and I'm 33 now.  I started training when I was about 17 or so, but I didn't have my first fight until I was 20 or 21.  I've got to be honest, in the last couple of years MMA has gone so mainstream that it is like a double edged sword.  It's great because we get more people involved and it's more exposure and people are more accepted at this point, but on the other hand there are a lot of people being involved in the sport because it's in and it is the cool thing to do.  They try to get on TV or get a reality show or a movie.  That's both men and women.  That's really the one aspect of it that I don't like.  I don't know if the quality of women has risen.  I can't really say.  I mean I have my group of girls that I really respect and that I think are good, but a lot of the girls getting into it now...I don't know.  I don't think they should be fighting.  I think maybe they're getting involved with it for the wrong reasons if that makes sense.

KALIN: When you look at women MMA, they honestly isn't that many big names.  We have you, Cyborg, Carano, but she might be done now.  What is it about female MMA that makes it so hard for the girls to make a name for themselves?

ERIN: I think first because it's a male dominated sport and it's always going to be that way.  We're always going to be the second pick and that's fine.  I've seen that my whole career.  I think the second part is just opportunities.  We don't get to fight as often as the men.  Third of course is going to be the caliber of fighters.  MMA is a very difficult sport.  It's very hard to put four or five disciplines together and be a well rounded fighter.  Even so for people like me who has been in the sport for years.  I'd like to think that I'm a well rounded fighter who can stand up and go to the ground, but there's a disconnect with the sport because people get in it and don't realize how difficult it is.  You see guys in the UFC who have had twenty or thirty fights and it still looks amateurish.  There's a reason why you look at the number ones in the male sport and the number two fighter is not like right on their coat tail.  It's like in boxing.  They're kind of like light years behind.  You look at Anderson Silva, you look at Georges St-Pierre, BJ Penn...most of the guys who are in that top 10 are far away from that first place.  I think it's because it is just a very difficult sport and it's difficult for people to do well in all these disciplines.  With the women too it's the same thing.  There are girls out there who are well rounded, but I don't know, women are different than men.  I don't try to say that I can compete with men or fight like a guy.  Women bring something a lot different to the sport.  It just goes back to it is a very difficult sport.

KALIN: You started training kickboxing at the young age of 18.  When did you realize that you wanted to start fighting for a living?

ERIN: I really got into training because I needed an outlet.  I was a really angry kid.  I had a lot of issues.  I was an amazing athlete growing up.  I always played sports, but I kind of took that wrong path in school.  I basically had been on my own since I was 15 and had my own apartment since I was 17.  I had always watched the UFC when I was a kid and was pretty intrigued by it.   I think I was 17 and I walked into this gym and it was in kickboxing started to become a really big craze.  One of the guys that was teaching who was also a fighter kind of took me under his wing and said “Hey, have you ever thought about fighting?”  Fighting had never really been something that had crossed my mind, but I said “Yeah, let me try it, what do I have to lose?”  Really that's kind of how I got involved and I started winning so I decided to see how far I could take it.  To be honest with you I never thought I would be a professional eleven years later.  I still have stuff to learn, I'm still going through my motions, and I feel like I still need to do a couple of more things before I retire which is pretty soon because there isn't a lot out there for me.  If I can get that Strikeforce title, who else is there to fight?  It's hard to find Cyborg fights.  These girls are light years away from being in that proposition.

KALIN: Will your next fight be against Cyborg?

ERIN: No.  In the last six months I've been staying off the internet.  I don't even read.  I'm so in the dark with everything.  I just maybe go on my Facebook, but someone manages it for me.  My problem with MMA in general is the fans.  People were getting just so aggressive and so belligerent towards me and a lot of good fighters who put their butts on the line for people like them to watch.  I just got sick of the new generation of these kids and these people that just have no respect for us.  They sit behind a computer and they talk trash.  I don't have time for that.  It kind of pains me to see that.  I would just like to see people respect the sport and respect the fighters.  Apparently Scott Coker did interviews before and after the Cyborg fight saying that I was going to be next.  I don't know anything about that.  He just sent me an email the other day saying that I'm getting a warm up fight so that people can see who I am and what I'm about.  I'm hearing two different things.  I'm just sitting in the wings and waiting.  I'm still training and if it happens it happens, but I'm just kind of tired of the waiting game.  He's telling fans and reporters one thing while he's telling me something different.  I haven't fought in a year.  I would like to get out there against a tough opponent and shake a little bit of this rust off.  I want to get prepared to fight for a title.

KALIN: You mention Coker telling you one thing and the media another, and not to talk bad about Strikeforce, but it seems like their title picture in every division is messed up now.  How do you feel about Scott Coker from a business perspective?

ERIN: If I could be more candid with you I would.  I'm under contract with them.  I have my personal feelings and I've been very open with Scott in terms of getting me out there.  I don't know who's handling it, I don't know who's at the bottom of stuff, but I think I'm not the only fighter who is in this position.  I can say that.  I think there's a lot of people who are waiting in the wings and are having contract issues who are just trying to make a living.  That's what I'm trying to do.  This is my job and I'm out here trying to support myself and my family.  It's not just about money though.  I'm not going out there to lose.  Getting paid is the last thing in my mind.  I just would like to be taken seriously.  Understand that this is a very hard thing for us to do to be trained and be prepared.  If it was UFC or Bellator doing that I would say the same thing.  Scott has been great to me.  He's there when I need to talk to him.  He's been available to me, but like I said, you guys are hearing one thing and I have emails that say the exact opposite.  As far as I know I'm not next.  Maybe I'm next for her, but just supposed to fight prior to that.  I don't know who it is, but I want to win and I believe that I will win.  I believe my destiny is to fight for that title.  Rather I win or lose I need to get to that position.  That comes down to me being ready and being prepared for a battle.

KALIN: Earlier you spoke on being on your own since you were 15 and leaving in your own apartment when you were 17.  Now you are in your thirties and ranked by many as the number two female fighter in the world.  What does that success mean to you because of where you came from?

ERIN: I worked really, really hard to get to where I am.  I didn't have a famous last name, I didn't have money, and I didn't get lucky.  I worked hard.  Hard work pays off.  Whether it comes early or later, my goal is to get that title and I'm proving that I want it because I've come down to a weight class that is insane.  I'm almost six feet tall and I have to make 145.  It's feasible for me to do because I have done it.  I did it two times last year.  They have to know how serious I am.  I want to be taken seriously.  I work really hard and I think that is what it comes down to.  If you get things handed to you, whether in sports or in business, I don't think you appreciate them and I think you take a lot of things for granted.  I think that has happened to a lot of fighters both male and female.  If you have a strong mind that's going to be the biggest thing.  I don't care how physically gifted you are, obviously that helps, but it's being mentally strong and being ready for whatever happens.  I think there are a lot worst things than being in a fight or training.  It's just hard work and staying at it when the times get tough.

KALIN: Why does the UFC not have a womens division?  Does Dana not look at them as legit fighters?

ERIN: Yeah, I'm sure.  Dana isn't a big supporter of women fighters and that's fine.  Strikeforce is a good outlet for us female fighters, but how many of us are actually there?  They have the 135 and 145 and there are only like five girls that are signed.  That has to speak volumes too.  I think the demand has to be there for it.  I don't think that there is enough good women to really have a solid division.  That's just how it is right now.  Maybe in five to ten years there will be.  Who knows.  I won't be around in five years let alone ten years.  As long as the women stick with it and get in it for the right reasons and they can actually compete in the sport and be good fighters, I think that the possibility is open.  It might not be in the UFC.  Maybe another company will come along.  I don't care.  I don't care that there are not women in the UFC.  It doesn't really affect me.  I keep chugging along and I'm really just fighting for myself.  Hopefully I inspire other girls to get involved, but my goal isn't to get other people to accept women in MMA.  All the guys that train at the top gyms respect me because I train with them and they have seen what I can do.  They might not respect the next girl just because she fights.  That doesn't mean that she has a place in the sport.

KALIN: Where do you see female MMA going in the next five years?

ERIN: Honestly I think it's probably at it's peak.  There are only like five people to fight Cyborg.  I think Cyborg is a good fighter and I think she's tough, but when I watch her striking and some of her other stuff, I'm not impressed.  I think Gina is a much better technical fighter than Cyborg.  That's what I like to see.  I like to see a woman who is aggressive and tough, but is technically sound too.  Regardless, she's the champion and I respect any champion.  I'm not scared of her.  Who else is there to fight?  That's the problem.  There's just nobody to fight and it's a challenge.  Look at Jan Finney.  I fought her and beat her too.  It was pretty easy.  Her fight with Jan Finney was the biggest underdog odds in history of both MMA and boxing.  That's a pretty sad state of affairs.  That's the next choice of opponent?  Where the underdog is so huge that that it breaks all records of the underdog barrier.  It's not even worth watching.

KALIN: Especially a title fight

ERIN: ESPECIALLY a title fight.  Then again, who is stepping up?  This is what is frustrating me about everything.  I don't care if it's MMA or boxing or anything else, if you're going to put a number two fighter in there, they at least get a fight before to build their fan base and that is what I want to do.  I want people to see me on TV and know who I am.  I don't want to casual fan to see me get in there and be like “Who's this girl?”  I'm worth a lot more than that.  I'm not in a rush.  Who else is going to fight her?  I don't really care.  I'm patient.  I've been here for eleven years and I've fought some of the best that both sports have to offer.  They know that I'm not desperate.  I'm not desperate to be on TV.  I'm not desperate to fight.  It pisses me off because this is my passion and I want to get in there, but I have to have support from my team too.  It's funny, even though I'm answering your questions, I keep going on these tangents and thinking about what the womens division COULD be.  There is something there to be capitalized on.  I think the way things are going though, it is going to disappear before it starts.  That's why I get upset.

KALIN: It's been great talking to you Erin.  Is there anything you would like to say before I let you go?

ERIN: I'm out here in Vegas right now and I train at Xtreme Couture.  Randy himself has been an amazing mentor.  He's really helped me a lot in dealing with Strikeforce and some of the things that I have been going through.  He's really lended a helping hand as far as contract stuff goes.  He sees me in there training all the time and working my butt off and having a hand full of fights fall through last year.  It's just nice to have people with big names like that who are going to support women.  We need that.  I want to thank my team and my husband of course and my fans for hanging in there.  I'm doing the best I can.  I can't force them to make me fight.  It's a waiting game and that's unfortunate.  I want to get in there as bad as they want to see me.  I'm going to be fighting a warm up fight in the next couple of months.  I will fight for the title.  You can expect to see me this year in the next couple of months.

Kalin Johnston

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