Looks Can Be Deceiving, Coenen Warns

By Mike Whitman Oct 9, 2010
Marloes Coenen file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- As ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. belted her name at a pre-fight press conference on Thursday, Dutch submission specialist Marloes Coenen smiled modestly and made her way to the stage. She came into plain sight, ready to sit and answer questions with the other fighters, and some unidentified member of the media let out a catcall, causing heads to turn and the fighter to come to a halt, her quiet smile now replaced by a look of bewilderment.

Before the weigh-ins on Friday, Coenen still had no idea just what that high-pitched noise was referencing.

“I don’t know why he did it. Do you know? Did I do something stupid?” the welterweight title challenger said with a laugh.

After learning the significance of the catcall in American culture, Coenen -- who will challenge Sarah Kaufman for the Strikeforce welterweight title on Saturday at the HP Pavilion -- simply shook her head and shrugged.

“You know, I like going for the conservative look,” said Coenen. “I’m not going for the sexy look. That’s not my thing. I’m not like Miesha [Tate] or Gina [Carano]. That’s not for me.”

When asked if it is harder to earn respect being a woman that most would describe as beautiful, Coenen was dismissive.

“It’s not hard to get respect,” she said. “When I walk in the streets of Amsterdam and people meet me and find out I’m a fighter, first, they’re in shock. Then they instantly have respect.”

She then continued to elaborate on the media’s representation of women, not only in sports but in other arenas, as well, asserting the oft-heard point of view that oftentimes women are revered more for their looks than their performance.

“That’s how it is in every sport,” Coenen said. “Look at tennis. Look at [Anna] Kournikova. She never won a grand slam [event], and she made millions. And Gina -- she’s a good fighter, but why is she so popular? She has a good figure and a good face. It’s inevitable [that they will receive more exposure]. You see it everywhere. Look at movies. Look at politicians. Take Hilary Clinton. They’re always talking about the way she dresses. So, if you’re a woman, that’s a part of the deal.”

A part of the deal, perhaps, but Coenen seems much more concerned with her upcoming title shot than her wardrobe. Most concede that the Dutch submission grappler will have an advantage on the mat and Kaufman will dictate the stand-up. Coenen does not agree and promised fireworks on the feet.

“For sure [I think I’m better on the ground], but I also think that I have an advantage in the stand-up,” she said. “A lot of the time, people really focus on my ground game, but my Thai boxing is [pretty good, too]. I’m fine with it if they appreciate my ground game, but we will hit it off standing.”

Coenen has fought the majority of her career in Japan. When asked whether she preferred fighting there or scrapping stateside, her answer started serious and ended somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

“I love Japan, the culture and everything, but now, there is [very little interest] in female MMA in Japan,” Coenen said. “The only opportunity I have to fight is in the States, and there is good shopping over here, so I love it.”

She may not be completely unconcerned with her wardrobe, but that does not change the fact that her focus remains on Kaufman. Reiterating the confidence she has in her stand-up, Coenen promised to aim for the knockout.

“I think the most beautiful way to win is with a KO,” she said. “You have to be really, technically good to KO a person. It feels like receiving a diploma, and that’s why I like it.”

Shockingly, Coenen has a fight scheduled just seven days after her title shot against Kaufman. She expects to meet fellow Dutch fighter Lena Buytendjik on Oct. 16 in the Netherlands, and Coenen has worked out exactly how to pull off the feat.

“It’s a three-phase plan. First, I have to make weight [for the Kaufman fight], but I’m on my weight, so it’s fine,” said Coenen, a natural middleweight who will compete at 135 pounds for the first time. “Then I have to have a good fight and knock out [Kaufman] in the first round. If it goes five rounds, I probably won’t be fighting next week, but if it goes quick and I have no injuries, then I will be fighting. It’s on a Golden Glory show, and all my teammates are there, so it’s very special.”

If all goes according to plan and Coenen defeats Kaufman and wins her fight next week in Amsterdam, Coenen has great aspirations in Strikeforce, ending with a match that would avenge her most recent and highest-profile loss to middleweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos.

“If I win the title, I’d like to fight Miesha Tate,” she said. “She won the tournament, so it will be a good fight. I want to defend the title a few times, and then I want to move back up to 145. After I have a few fights [at middleweight], I definitely want [to fight Cyborg] again. In my heart, I feel like I can handle her.”
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