Last weekend, Germany's female fighter of the year 2010 and 2011 kicked off the Cage Warriors Super Flyweight Tournament against Chute Boxe's Jennifer Maia. The "German Tank" crushed her opponent in a mere ten seconds. With yet another viscious first-round knockout the 22-year-old kickboxer punched her ticket for the final and waits for the winner of the other semifinal between Rosi Sexton and Aisling Daly, that will go down in May.
A lightning attack from Gaff caused a lot of disagreements from the fans: While Maia went to touch gloves, Gaff already entered attack mode. I spoke to the Maxpro MMA Academy fighter to get her take on the lingering controversy.
Groundandpound.de: Congratulations on making the tournament final. The bell had just sounded in Dubai when the fight was already over. How did you experience the fight?
Sheila Gaff: Thank you very much Elias. I trained very hard for this fight for three months and I'm more than happy I got the win. First of all I have to give thanks to Cage Warriors: What Graham Boylan and Ian Dean do for Female MMA in Europe is second to none.
I can't really say a lot about the fight, it was over as quickly as it had started. I kept marching forward and eventually clipped her with a right hook. After that I was just happy!
You touched gloves before the fight. Is that the reason why you didn't want to touch gloves again after the bell?
Touching gloves over and over again is indeed not my cup of tea. My job is to beat the best super flyweights in the world and my style is to go all out from the opening bell. I never fought to score points, I've always been looking to finish my fights as quickly as possible.
The whole thing came across very unfortunately. The only thing I can say about it is that I had no ill intent, it just happened in the heat of the moment. I have a lot of respect for Jennifer as an athlete and of Chute Boxe as a team. I have always admired fighters such as Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio Shogun and have molded my fighting style after them.
Can you understand that some people impute a spirit of mischief? How do you react to those allegations?
Of course I've been following the discussions on the internet and I'm very sad about it. I was seriously considering to drop out of the Cage Warriors tournament because of it. Inside the cage I get straight down to the nitty-gritty, but when you allege I'm malicious and fake, I'm very sensitive about it and it makes me very sad.
I definitely did not fake touching gloves, all I did was starting to fight right after it. That's just my disposition. If I had to back off after touching gloves, that would destroy my game. It's really dumb such a big fuss was made about it as the right I landed after touching gloves had zero impact.
You are known for going all out from the opening bell. Your last three fights lasted less than two minutes together. Is it your gameplan to surprise your opponents with your power and technique?
For sure. I racked up all my wins inside the first round and four times the fight was over in less than a minute. I can just repeat myself: I want to go out and finish fights. And ever since I started fighting in my ideal weightclass at 125lbs, I also have the impression that most opponents have difficulties with my strength, pace and punching power.
After cancelled fights, change of opponents and empty promises from other promoters you were sitting on the sidelines for almost a year. Now you're in the Final of the Cage Warriors tournament. After the win you were showing a lot of emotions inside the cage. Did that take a big load off your mind?
Definitely. With us females it's something completely different again as none of the weight classes are very deep. Then I fell very ill just before the fight in September (against Angela Hayes at Cage Warriors Fight Night 2 - the editor) and wasn't allowed to fly. That made me very sad as I just had a lot of momentum coming off the two wins over Hanna (Sillen) and Ais (Aisling Daly) and because I like to fight and stay active.
Before this event there was a flood of opponent changes. First I was supposed to fight Jessica Eye, then against Tonya Evinger, eventually they wanted to match me up with Kelly Kobold and finally it was Jennifer Maia. I was originally preparing to fight a wrestler and then faced a kickboxer, but I prepared too hard for this fight which in the end I didn't even care anymore who it was they put in front of me.
Is it nerve-wrecking to travel so much for your fights, especially to exotic places like the UAE last weekend, and that you seldomly get to fight "at home"?
No, I'm already an old-timer when it comes to that! (laughs) I fought in Holland, Finland, Russia, Sweden, England and now in the United Arab Emirates. Even though I'm only 22 years old, I have my own routine down. And as long as I got my coach Andre Balschmieter by my side, I feel safe and secure anyway. The only thing I'm missing is a fight in the States...
With your three-fight win streak you are among the most successful female fighters at the moment and with another victory you could not only clinch the belt, but also make a big jump in the rankings. What would winning the title mean to you personally?
Winning the title of a prestigious event as Cage Warriors which had great fighters as Dan Hardy, Michael Bisping or our German Pascal Krauss as their champions would be the absolute pinnacle of my career! I don't really care much about the rankings, I fight any and all opponents they put in front of me. The belt would be a great recognition for all the hard work I put in at the gym during the last six years.
You already beat Daly and you are also familiar with Rosi Sexton's career. Who do you think will win their semifinal?
I think Rosi is the favorite to win this. She is the "Grande Dame" of UK MMA. Sexton fought and beat much better competition and has much more experience at the top level. Rosi Sexton was already fighting when MMA was still called NHB! But you can not count Daly out, ever - it will be a fun fight to watch.
Which opponent do you prefer to face in the Finals?
I would like to fight against Rosi as she is the former Cage Warriors bantamweight champion and in my opinion the best female fighter in Europe at 125 pounds. On top of that she'd be a new, a fresh challenge for me. If Ais manages to get past her, she more than deserves her rematch for the belt, though.
How do you think you match up with either lady?
Can't really give an answer to that. I guess we will see when we step inside the cage.
Bellator's 125 pound ladies tournament is rumored to go down this fall. Would that be a challenge you'd be interested in?
I am definitely open for all challenges. Should I really bring home the bacon and win the Cage Warriors tournament, fighting in the States would definitely be an intriguing challenge. Personally, I'm disappointed that Strikeforce doesn't have a 125-pound weight class for females. I guess I will have to move back up to 135 pounds if I want to challenge their champion.
Any last words?
I would like to say thanks to my coach Andre Balschmieter who takes a lot of time to work on my game. Can't ask for a better coach! I'm also very happy about Tryme Fightwear who have become my official gear sponsor starting with the Dubai fight.
A big thanks also goes out to Control Master Management - after they started working with me, there was just one direction for my career: Upwards! Last but not least I don't want to forget my fans and friends either: Your support and encouragement gives me the power to train hard, so that I can show you good fights.
Interview: Elias Stefanescu/English Translation: Tim Leidecker