Exclusive interview with Erin Toughill

Talking to Erin Toughill is what I would imagine having a conversation with Optimus Prime would be like. They’re both extremely confident in their skills, they can back it up with evidence of their destructive ability and both pretty much could easily protect the planet if aliens invaded earth.

Erin Toughill is beyond interesting. After the interview, we were all jumping up and down in sheer elation not only because the interview went extraordinary well, but because we didn’t geek out when we were talking to perhaps the best pound for pound fighter in women’s MMA. Not to mention, she’s friggin hot. This interview was conducted by our very own D**k ‘Starscream’ Grayson, a man of many aliases.

What’s one thing you like about boxing over MMA and vice versa?That’s an interesting question. They differ in so many ways. I think the thing with getting to do a one dimension type of training, which is boxing, you really get to focus on the hands. I think if I had an amateur career I think things might have turned out differently. You know I was kind of pushed into it and I never thought that I was going to fight professionally, it was just to kind of cross train.

So getting to box for the last decade or 12 years, my hands have become obviously one of my strong points. I love learning new techniques with boxing and I can outbox a lot of the guys so that’s definitely been one of my strong points. Being able to carry that over into the MMA has definitely been a plus for me because there’s a lot of good standup girls but I think I have the best hands out of any of those girls out there. I might not be the best ju-jitsu girl or wrestler but I definitely have the best hands.

You definitely show it in your fightsI try to, now I’m able to be consistent. The last fight I wasn’t super happy with but at any rate, I just really love the technical aspect of it and really getting to…it’s a science, it’s a beautiful sport once you get to know it. With MMA, it’s really pushed me to a new level. I’ve always done MMA as well but you get to see how good of a martial artist you are when you have to excel at several disciplines, that is a very tough sport as well. I can’t really pick one over the other but being able to cross train on both and be successful at one time in my career at both sports speaks volumes as to what I can do as a fighter. There’s really not a lot of people, men or women, that could succeed at two sports simultaneously and at least be ranked in the top 5.

So I’m assuming one reinforces the other?Yeah it does, but I had to stop doing it (boxing) because I prefer to focus on MMA and the stances are different in boxing and it makes me susceptible to takedowns or you’re not able to kick correctly. I stopped actually boxing I think it was the end of 2006, my one lost was to Laila Ali and then I fought a girl who was a top 5 girl…I think she was top 3 and I beat her. 6 months later she asked for a rematch and I said ‘Yeah’. My dad died about 4 days before that fight and I still fought. I wasn’t there mentally, emotionally, spiritually and this girl just cleaned my clock you know. She hit me so hard and kind of knocked my butt out of the ring and I just swore I would never box again because there was something that wasn’t flowing for me the same way as MMA.

I had a dozen fights and I’ve never been comfortable in boxing as I have with MMA, I really don’t know why. It’s good because maybe that was just a little thing to let me focus on where my heart is and where your soul is and that’s really MMA. I think I’ve been able to develop that and stick to one thing and hopefully I’ll be the world champion within the next year.

Who would you rather fight? Carano or Cyborg?That’s friggin hard…they both pose very different problems and you would have to fight them completely different. I’ve fought a lot of people like Cyborg but people don’t understand the difference between both of them. Not to take anything away…yeah they’ve had seven/eight fights or whatever but they’ve really never gone against a big strong person that has a background in striking. So I think we get to see how either of their chins really are going against someone of their own size which we kind of will get to see in August.

But you know, I’ve fought a lot of girls like Cyborg with that aggressive ‘come here’ style and they’re in your face. I’ve fought them in boxing and I’ve fought them in MMA. So I think someone that would bring more of a technical style out of me, which is what I prefer, would be Gina. She’s more of a kickboxer than I am, she does her footwork and when she wants she can throw great punches. I think both of us would have a technical fight which I think would be great for the fans. But really whoever wins is supposed to be the best so I’m going to fight whoever that is.

5 minute rounds for women?Yeah, of course. And as you know they just changed it in Strikeforce to 5 minutes. In my opinion, with Gina’s fight I think she has the potential to win if she plays her cards right. But when I heard that it was five, 5 minute rounds if anything could possibly be her downfall, it could be that. People don’t understand, cardio is king…I don’t care how good you are, you have to be in shape. I’ve always fought 5 minute rounds back in 1999 when I had my first fight when I was like, this is real Value Tudo and it was the WVC or whatever it was. We didn’t even have to wear gloves if we didn’t want to. The men just didn’t want our faces to get cut up. We fought one 15:00 minute round. That was my first fight ever, one 15:00 minute round so I’ve been doing hard stuff since the beginning and fighting people who should have been kicking my ass but because I was such a tough girl, athletic, tenacious and I had the drive and dedication to beat them; I beat a lot of really good people.

But I think the 5 minute rounds are better, it gives you time to work a little bit more, execute your submission maybe sock them a little bit more. The three minutes actually makes you work faster. It can actually make you more tired because you have to work at a more furious pace, less time to make an impact on the judges. So I think 5 minute rounds are perfect and hopefully they’ll keep those.

What percentage of male MMA fighters can hack it out in boxing?There’s not a very high percentage. But the one I can think of offhand is George St. Pierre. I think he’s pretty freaking amazing. Frankie Edgar, he just did a straight boxing clinic on Sean Shrek. But it’s apples and oranges. It’s the same thing as whether a boxer can do well at high level MMA, probably not. But I think anyone that has the right training and If they submerge themselves, dedicate themselves and if they were a good enough athlete they could probably translate it into the other sport. But I don’t think there’s too many people (in MMA) like right now that can just go ‘Ok, my next fight is going to a boxing match and I’m going to win’. It’s just not that easy. When I’m going against guys that I can outbox…

Technically you’re more superior?Technically yeah, I’ll box their ears off. And if I can do that, you know, take a man the same size with more ferocity and punching power and then outbox them, that pretty much says it all right there.

What aspects would you train Kimbo Slice in?Well I’ve only seen him once or twice. The brawling style, you know, can only work so long. The point of punching and boxing is not to get hit and you’re going to see a lot of the fighters now where that toll is catching up to them ala Wanderlei Silva. For many years he took that punishment and he’s my age, 32, and he looks ten years older than he is.

But with Kimbo Slice, I think I would work on his technique and for Christ sakes he needs to work on his ju-jitsu. He better start rolling around either put a gi on his big ass or do something. He’s lost on the ground and I just read an interview with Bas Rutten, his former trainer and he was posing problems like ‘Hey shouldn’t we go over ankle locks or ground stuff?’ and Kimbo told him ‘Why should we? It’s not going to go to the ground’.

You see that every day. People only want to work on what they’re comfortable in and people don’t want to put their selves in that position. You hope that doesn’t happen in a fight…but what if it does? There’s positions that I hate being in but I have to work on them because Lord knows you don’t want to be in a fight and be in that same position and go ‘I wish I would have trained on this for the last few months’.

Any relationship with Laila Ali since you’re both on American Gladiators?Relationship is too strong of a word. There are three female fighters on the show; all of us bring something different to the table. Gina and I really got along, I talk to her every now and then and I’m friends with her, we have a lot in common and I like her. Laila…is just another entity of her own and I’m not going to name names from other people on the show but…she, um, people just really didn’t have a lot of positive feedback about her.

I don’t want to go too much into detail but we were amicable, I don’t even want to say amicable…we remained professional throughout the show. If she ever had anything to say, I would say ‘Ok well…no more boxing, let’s do some real fighting’.

I still get grief to this day, I talk a lot of shit and that’s part of my game. I don’t care; I went in there and did the best that I could at that time. You know 6-1-1 and I fought someone with 36 pro fights and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted but I learned a lot from that and I’m fighting 20lbs lower than I was then. So things change and people improve but I wish Laila a lot of luck. I hope she has a happy marriage and I know she had a child last year…so, yeah.

Which actress would you like to train?I’m really big into those stupid reality tv shows, like all the VH1…those ‘Rock of Love’ and all those hilarious ones. There’s that one girl Heather from ‘Rock of Love’. They wouldn’t be good, but it would just be funny because they’re just so nutty, they would probably just go in there and just want to fight. I don’t think that would necessarily be good for the sport but to be honest with you it takes someone really special to do the sport, another athlete perhaps.

It’s Friday night, you’re injury free…what are you doing?Well right now, in between my fights I’m not a big party person. I don’t go out every weekend. I did that when I was in my teens and twenties, I have enough to last a life time. Right now, I’ll talk to my boyfriend and hang out with him. I really love to be around my friends and my family. On the weekends I’ll either read or catch up on my sleep and I like to watch a lot of fights. That’s a big thing for me; I’m always interested in the game and seeing what’s what in the sport and what I can approve on.

I’m a pretty mellow person, I’m pretty low key and If I go out it’s to the UFC or something special but mostly when the weekend hits then I’m very relaxed I go to the movies or just chill. That’s what I like to do because I work full time and train full time. I’m very low maintenance.

Have you ever fought a dude and kicked his ass?Yeah! I have. I don’t sit there and act like I’m proud of it. Ten years ago I had my first fight so I’ve been training for almost a decade and a half really. I got into fighting because I’ve been getting into fights for as long as I can remember in middle school, grade school all the way up until…when I was professionally fighting. I had a lot of unresolved anger; I didn’t know where to direct it. I grew up in a turbulent childhood, when I was about 17 I had my own apartment so I’ve really been living on my own for a very long time and I was angry about a lot of stuff. I’ll tell you the truth; I’ve got in more fights with men than I did with women. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s not like I’m bragging about beating up guys. I was trouble, I wanted trouble and it found me. Wherever I was, I was happy to fight…I can’t even tell you some of the stuff that has happened to me. I’ve had my ass kicked by a couple of guys and then I’ve beat the crap out of a few guys. I had a very, very bad reputation growing up and really fighting, ironically, saved me from probably a sure demise. I’m really not sure what my path would have been, but I was going down the wrong one.

What type of person were you like in highschool? I was a punk-rocker. I had purple hair, oh my god…I pretty much got along with everybody and in three years of high school I went to five different high schools so that will give you an idea of the type of trouble I was making. I was a bad, bad kid. But again, very angry…a lot of displaced emotions and punk rock was like, all the angry kids were doing that and that was a part of me for a really, really long time.

What’s the geekiest thing you’re into?Is chess geeky? I like playing chess and I like reading a lot, I guess it depends on what the literature is about. I have a pretty eclectic taste in what I like. I used to read dictionaries when I was a kid. It’s very bizarre because for as much as I didn’t go to school and stay out of school, I was a voracious reader and I was constantly reading. Constantly. I’m pretty educated. I went to college…eventually, and got my shit together. I’ve been very interested in learning, I’m not a mathematician by any means but I was very into paleontology when I was young. That’s actually what I was going to be when I grew up before a lot of my other stuff took over. I was very interested in science, mystery and things of that nature.

If you had one super power to use in the cage, what would it be? Mind reading, I would rather have that. I’m already pretty freakishly strong so I would have to use something that would be completely impossible. So mind reading, I definitely want that.

Aliens invaded and you have to form a team of three MMA fightersOk, let’s say…GSP because he’s the man. He’s pretty awesome. We got to have Fedor. Then let’s see, what’s one more good smaller guy. You know who’s pretty bad ass and I’ve always really liked him is Miguel Torres. I think that would be a pretty sweet team. I like that! I like that team.

What 80s trend should make a comeback?You guys are like stumping me right now. I would say neon but that’s already in right now. I love new age music so I guess that might be kind of dorky, but I like that music. So maybe that trend should come back.

If you would like to say anything to Bas Rutten, what would it be?We’ve come across each other’s path many times in the last few years and it’s an honor that he remembers me. I remember several years ago I knocked out a girl that he knows very well from Holland who was, at the time, one of the very top girls; Marloes. And yeah, I saw that little clip on Inside MMA and he had a lot of really complimentary things to say so, you know, I would tell him good luck and thanks for supporting women’s MMA. It’s a big honor so I have a lot of respect for him and I think he’s a bad ass.

Any shout-outs?Obviously my MMA agent, which is Ken Pavia and Nathan Brodnax. They’ve really been amazing and instrumental with bringing me out of retirement and getting me the fights that I need and really supporting me, so that’s number one. Number two is going to be Cagefighter, they’re one of my sponsors. All of the guys that I train with, they pretty much know who they are and if people want to check out more about me and who I am, they can go to ErinToughill.com. Oh, the one thing before I forget…August 15th, I’ll be on that Strikeforce card.
Published on July 3, 2009 at 7:10 am
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