With the roster still growing for the UFC women’s bantamweights, the third fight that fans will get from this division is Olympic silver medalist in wrestling Sara McMann (6-0, MMA) taking on “The German Tank” Sheila Gaff (10-4-1, MMA).
As a guest on MMA Fight Corner on Monday, McMann talked about her UFC debut opposite Gaff and also said her championship mentality could be enough to beat the likes of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey.
With UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey keeping her first round armbar win streak in tact in her first title defense and a Fight of the Night TKO from Cat Zingano who finished Miesha Tate with a brutal series of knees, the bar has been set pretty high when it comes to women making an immediate impact in the UFC.
But McMann’s already basked in the spotlight from her experiences in the Olympics, the Pan-Am games, and ADCC grappling competitions. She’s not worried in the least about having to put on a show to prove anything.
“I don’t really think about what impression I make when I’m fighting. I go out there and my drive is to position myself to do the most damage and the best way to finish the fight,” McMann said. “I keep my sights set solely on that and they just so happen to usually be pretty exciting fights because of that. The crowd usually responds pretty well. But I don’t make it my focus because I think that it would take away from what I’m doing. I’d be a little bit too distracted worrying about the crowd instead of being in the moment in the fight.”
With her UFC debut happening this Saturday, April 27, McMann has trained various places to stay as competitive as possible and to keep developing her repertoire. She’s worked up at TriStar gym in Montreal, Canada, as well as with renowned Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, Marcelo Garcia in New York.
Her next test is Sheila Gaff, a striker fighting out of Germany. Gaff’s known for her knockout power and has stopped six opponents with her striking thus far. But to the wrestler who’s competed at a high level, Sara sees that as Gaff’s downfall.
“I think that her greatest strength is her greatest weakness. The fact that she sets such a high pace and the fact that she is constantly attacking, that leaves a lot of room for error. That leaves a lot of room for you to be counter attack. Whenever you have that kind of style, either you win big or you lose big. That’s what I really think is going end up working against her. It’s a double edged sword.”
While some competitors talk about the UFC jitters getting the better of them once they step onto the world’s biggest platform for the sport of MMA, McMann is positive that there’s no way that’ll affect her when she fights.
“I really just focus more on my opponent and what I need to do. Once I step into the cage, none of that stuff, I don’t even see it. Honestly everything in the whole world could blow up outside the cage and I would not know it until the last bell,” Sara said. “We’ve had a lot of really big, really important competitions, this is amongst them, but it’s not enough to throw us off our game. We’ve already gone through that.”
“I didn’t feel it remotely at the Olympics and that was the pinnacle of my career. I just don’t feel it the way other people do. I don’t know why that is, but I think part of it is I’m just naturally a thrill seeker. The more nervous I get, it just translates into excitement for me. If anything, I would make a mistake and the fact that I’d be too excited, I’d get a little over anxious or something, that’s how it would display. Because I respect how big the UFC is, I’ve already accounted for it in my training camp.”
With an undefeated record heading into her third year of fighting MMA at a professional level, McMann dominated Shayna Baszler in every aspect in her last bout with Invicta FC 2 earning the unanimous decision nod. The scrap not only earned Fight of the Night from the promotion, but also was a title eliminator. With a roster of only 12 women currently, McMann is aiming for a title shot in the UFC. When asked if she thinks she has what it takes to beat Ronda Rousey, McMann said:
“I believe I do. I don’t think I’d be fighting if I didn’t either naturally have it or acquire it to be the best in the world. And if she gets beat by Cat, then I’ll have the skill set to beat Cat Zingano. And I just think that’s the way that every high level athlete thinks about those things.”
McMann vs. Gaff will air as part of the preliminary card on FX this Saturday. A light heavyweight championship bout between Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen is the main event on the UFC 159 pay-per-view.
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