Before Ronda Rousey rose to stardom, Sarah Kaufman was one of the first dominant forces on the North American women’s MMA scene. The Canadian bantamweight started her career with a perfect 12-0 record. A run that included KO victories over future UFC title challengers Alexis Davis, Valerie Letourneau, and Roxanne Modafferi—and a decision win over future UFC champion Miesha Tate. In the process she picked up the inaugural Strikeforce women’s bantamweight championship.
Following the first defense of her belt, Kaufman lost her title to fellow pioneering talent Marloes Coenen—eventually challenging again for Strikeforce gold just two years later against none other than Rousey herself.
With the purchase of Strikeforce by the UFC, Kaufman was among the first class of bantamweights brought over to the world’s largest MMA promotion. Unfortunately, starting with a loss to Jessica Eye (later overturned to a ‘no contest’), her time in the Octagon was brief. A controversial split decision loss to future flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko in 2015 spelled the end of Kaufman’s run in Zuffa owned promotions.
The years that followed saw Kaufman win another bantamweight title with Invicta FC, as well as competing in the first ever PFL women’s lightweight tournament. In 2021 she stepped into the cage for what looks to have been the last time, defeating former Bellator fighter Jessy Miele via first round TKO. Kaufman officially announced her retirement from mixed martial arts in a recent post to her Instagram.
“While I’ve known since the beginning of my career that it couldn’t continue forever, it’s a bit surreal to finally announce that I am officially retiring from the professional sport of MMA. While I have made my last walk as a competitor, I will always be involved in some capacity as a coach and a recreational athlete. I have loved every second in the cage and the amazing people I have met around the world will forever be part of my family.
“Starting out at 20 years old, I wasn’t sure exactly who I was as a person; but through my 17 year journey, all the people and experiences have shaped me into the person I am today. I am proud of my accomplishments and how I always carried myself with poise, professionalism and never compromised my integrity to get ahead.
“I have been fortunate to have worked with the most amazing coaches and teammates: I couldn’t have done it without you. To all of the competitors I shared the cage with, the teammates I shared hours training with, the fans and supporters who were behind me, the sponsors who enabled me to do what I. love, the media who gave me a platform to get my story out there, the promotions who had me step in their cages:
“To my head coach, Adam Zugec, Zuma teammates, and longtime strength coach Ty Goodale: thank you for being in my corner always. To the Jackson-Wink crew, the Roufusport crew, the Syndicate Crew, you will always be family. There are too many people to thank individually. You know who you are. You are appreciated.
“I have nothing else to say except I am sad the journey has ended but am also at peace knowing I gave everything I could to the sport of MMA. I hope I left it better than when I started.
“I am excited to be moving on on my terms and stepping into a new career where I can continue to help others in the community.”
At 36-years old, Kaufman will walk away from MMA with a pro record of 22 wins, 5 losses, and 1 no contest. Although she may not have made a major impact in her UFC career, she deserves to be recognized as a fundamental figure in the establishing of women’s MMA in the US. Her run up to the Strikeforce title turned her into one of the first dominant athletes in women’s MMA and was key to turning women athletes into more than a sideshow attraction in a largely male sport. Hopefully retirement treats her well.