Leslie Smith Eyes Bout With Sarah Kaufman At Invicta FC 5Undefeated inside the Invicta Fighting Championships cage, bantamweight rising star Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith is hoping to pick up her biggest win to date in April. Smith has her sights set on facing former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion Sarah Kaufman at Invicta FC 5.

Smith and Kaufman were in talks to face off at Invicta FC 4 on Saturday, but an injury kept Kaufman off of the card and Smith went on to defeat Raquel “Rocky” Pennington. Following her win, Smith spoke with MMARising.com about dropping to 125 pounds if a bout with Kaufman fails to materialise.


Smith (5-2-1) has impressed in each of her three appearances for Invicta FC. She made her promotional debut on the inaugural Invicta FC card this past April and fought to a Split Draw with Kaitlin Young in a bout that many felt Smith had won. After injuries kept her out of action in July, Smith returned to Invicta FC in October and stopped Young in a much-anticipated rematch. On Saturday night at Invicta FC 4, Smith posted a Unanimous Decision victory over former friend and training partner Raquel Pennington.

In the opening round of Saturday’s bout, Smith found herself getting drawn into Pennington’s game plan. Pennington was able to close the distance to clinch and scored a takedown that led to a rear-naked choke attempt on the ground. Smith eventually battled back to her feet, but she knew that she had given away the round and needed to make a change as the middle stanza began.

“I work with my boxing coach, Mario L’Esperance, a lot, and he does this thing where he’ll be up against the ring or cage and he’ll suck me in,” Smith says. “I’ll totally get sucked in and I’ll stand there and get hit five times for every one hit that I get in on him until I’m like, ‘No way, I can’t do this,’ and so I’ll step back into the middle of the ring to make it clear that this is my ring.

“I realised that [Pennington] was doing exactly the same thing [in our fight],” Smith adds. “She was not physically pulling me in, even though she did do that a few times, but she was going to the edge of the cage and I was getting in too close. So, for me [after round one], the most important thing was for me to walk to the middle of the cage and tell her to meet me there to establish that this is my game plan.”


Smith became the aggressor in rounds two and three, but she was careful not to play into Pennington’s strengths. On multiple occasions, Smith beckoned Pennington to meet her in the centre of the cage. Viewers likened Smith’s actions to the in-cage taunting that is often prevalent when her Cesar Gracie Fight Team allies Nick and Nate Diaz compete, but Smith maintains that it was all about implementing her game plan and leaving no doubt in the judges’ minds as to who was in control of the fight.

“I definitely think that it had an impact [with the judges] and I was looking for it to have that impact,” Smith says. “I needed it to be seen that I was the aggressor and that I was the one chasing her down, and that I was being smarter about it. The first time that I fought Kaitlin [Young], I chased her around the whole time and I could never claim as many points as I had wanted to for being the aggressor because she was being smart and getting potshots and using my aggression against me.

“This time, I wanted to make sure that that wasn’t going to happen. I wanted to be able to be like, ‘Look, I’m in the middle of the cage and I’m not running.'”

Smith was successful in implementing that game plan in the final ten minutes of the fight and all three judges scored the bout 29-28 in her favour. She and Pennington, who engaged in a war of words leading up to the bout, had mutual respect for each other at the end of the three-round battle.


Smith was in good company on the Invicta FC 4 card, as Gracie Fighter and Combat Sports Academy teammates Alexis “Ally-Gator” Davis and Sarah “The Monster” D’Alelio both picked up key victories in featured bantamweight bouts. All three members of the tight-knit group had coach Alessandro Ferreira cornering them for their respective fights. Smith feels that having teammates on the same card can be a huge motivator, and especially when each fighter performs well.

“That was 100% the goal, to go 3-0 [as a team],” Smith states. “It matters so much more when you’re part of a team like that. It always matters to get the win, but to know that your win is going to affect two other people is big. Even when I try not to think about Sarah and Alexis because this is my fight, it still affects me. Backstage, hearing that Sarah won, that was a huge surge of energy. Then Alexis got her win as well. It definitely contributes to feeling good.

“It was nice to have a training camp where I got to work with both [Davis and D’Alelio] during camp. It was awesome,” Smith adds. “The team rallies more when there’s so many of us going out there to fight. Alessandro cornered all three of us and he brings so much enthusiasm to the table. There’s no doubt in my mind that he was a huge contributor to all three of us getting our wins. He was the chain connector from the first win. Then I got to take it on, and then he got to bring it into the Alexis fight as well.”

In addition to her training with Ferreira and Gracie, Smith also spent time working with Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez’s Skrap Pack. She was fully prepared for the challenge ahead of her and competing in front of a passionate crowd also helped to fuel Smith during the fight.

“I want to say how much I appreciate all of the Kansas City fans,” she says. “They’re awesome and I love fighting out here. They get so excited and it’s really nice to be a part of that.”


While Smith, Davis and D’Alelio are all top-ranked competitors in the women’s bantamweight division, the teammates will not fight each other. Smith has entertained thoughts of making the drop down to the 125-pound flyweight division – a move that may occur later this year – but there is at least one marquee fight left at 135 that she would like to pursue first.

“Fighting Sarah Kaufman would be awesome for me and it would be awesome for Invicta,” Smith says. “Our styles match up so well and I think that we would both make the other one look good. It would be great for my career just to have a fight on that level. I’ve been trying to break into the top ten [at 135] for a little while, so to be able to fight the #2 would be a nice welcome into fighting the top 10ers. She hasn’t fought for Invicta yet, so I would love to welcome her to the Invicta team.”

Smith and Kaufman were already in talks to compete this past weekend prior to Kaufman’s injury, and the former Strikeforce champion is expected to be in action at Invicta FC 5 in April. Smith hopes that she can be the one standing across from Kaufman when the opening bell sounds.



(Photo Credit: Esther Lin, AllElbows.com / InvictaFC.com)

  1. I love Leslie Smith, but Kaufmann is a bit too much for her, I fear.

  2. I think kaufman a bit too much esp coming from kaufmans embarassing loss to rousey, i know sarah is pissed about how bad she looked, so i wouldnt want to be her comeback fight opponnent