Strikeforce’s Coenen Relishes Role as Hunted Champion

By Brian Knapp Jul 29, 2011
Marloes Coenen will defend her 135-pound women’s title against Miesha Tate. | Photo: Dave Mandel



Strikeforce women’s welterweight champion Marloes Coenen welcomes the inherent pressures that go along with carrying promotional gold around one’s waist.

The 30-year-old Golden Glory representative will defend her crown against top contender Miesha Tate in a featured matchup at Strikeforce/M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Henderson” on Saturday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Coenen (19-4) seems to thrive on the idea of being pursued.

“Having a belt and trying to hold on to it and people chasing after you is just part of the game,” she said during a pre-fight teleconference. “To me, it makes it exciting. Every time I defend and retain my title, it will be more and more valuable for me.”

Past experiences during Coenen’s decade in the sport -- including her January 2010 defeat to Strikeforce women’s middleweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos -- feed those beliefs.

“The first time I became a champion was when I was 19 years old,” she said. “It took me a decade to fight again for a title, and I fought against Cyborg and I lost. [Strikeforce CEO] Scott [Coker] saw something in me, and he gave me a second chance to fight for a title, and I won the title. It was a title I really worked for.”

Now, the upstart Tate wants a piece of the action. Based at Team Alpha Male, where she trains alongside former WEC featherweight king Urijah Faber, she will bring her wrestling-centric attack to the cage with her. Tate, 24, has rattled off five consecutive victories, three of them finishes.

Coenen -- whose wrestling skills, or lack thereof, have long been a source of criticism for her detractors -- expects a heavy dose of attempted takedowns and clinches from a challenger who has never before been submitted.

“You can imagine it’s been a big part of my camp, but we’ve also been working on my ground game and my standup. I hope it pays off,” said Coenen, who defended her 135-pound title for the first time in March, as she submitted Liz Carmouche with a fourth-round triangle choke. “I always work the way I do. For every opponent, we adjust small details. I’ve learned from my last two fights, and I’m ready to go now.”

Like the rest of the fighters who populate it, Coenen understands women’s MMA may soon find itself it a crossroads. The March purchase of Strikeforce by Ultimate Fighting Championship parent company Zuffa LLC left female mixed martial artists with uncertain futures. The UFC does not field a women’s division. Still, Coenen wants to see the trend towards mainstream acceptance continued.

“I started fighting in Japan because the center of MMA was there, but I know for sure the center of MMA is now in the States,” Coenen said. “It started out with Gina Carano, who really made a good effort to promote women’s MMA, and then Scott picked it up and introduced weight classes, and things evolved further.

“What I see in the technical department is the women have to go stronger, more technical,” she added. “When I was fighting back in the day, we had open weight categories, and you could fight opponents that were 60 pounds or more heavier than you, so it’s now more professional.”

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