How times have changed. Here we are, marching briskly forward into 2014, with women fighters dominating the MMA headlines every bit as much as their male counterparts. Whoever would have thought? Well me for one! Women’s MMA is fantastic entertainment.
Make no mistake, these ladies have ability, skill, determination and a ferociousness that some of their male counterparts could learn from, so why is it only in the last year that their efforts have been properly recognized? The answer is this: thanks to Ronda Rousey.
UFC 157, February 23rd 2013, was the event that changed women’s mixed martial arts forever. A bold statement maybe, but it is true. That night Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche became the first female fighters ever to step foot inside the Octagon.
This really was a historic moment for both women fighters and the UFC. A moment made even more remarkable given UFC President Dana White went on record only a year or so before that night saying that he would “never” allow women to compete inside his Octagon.
What Dana clearly wasn’t expecting back when he made those comments was the emergence of a certain former Olympic Judo medal winner with cover girl good looks called Ronda Rousey that was destroying all that stood before her. Ronda was the difference, she was the one that made Dana sit up and give this idea a second thought. So this is where we must give Dana White credit.
I’m sure it is difficult for the president of a high profile global company to eat humble pie and change his mind so dramatically and so quickly. But Dana’s job after all is to ensure the UFC remains the world’s premier MMA promotion and he clearly realized how potentially lucrative Ronda could be for his business.
However, to have Ronda and Liz headline a UFC event for the bantamweight championship was still a risk for Dana. Why? because he had pay per views to sell and at that point the only women his customers had ever seen inside the cage was “The beautiful” Arianny Celeste and friends.
Sure Dana could have taken what may have seemed the safest option and had the high profile names, Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson, headline the event and introduced Ronda and Liz to UFC fans somewhere else on the main card. But Dana is a master of fight promotion and thankfully seems to live by the mantra ‘No Guts, No Glory.’
The UFC did a tremendous job in the build up to UFC 157 marketing Ronda as an undefeated 1st round arm bar phenomenon and with nearly 500,000 PPV sales and a gate of over $1.3 million it was clear that Dana’s gamble paid of big time. Ronda didn’t let Dana or anyone else down by once again pulling off her ‘special move’ and submitting Liz via arm bar in the 1st round. It was that very moment history was made.
Not only did Ronda herald her arrival in the MMA world as a legitimate fighting superstar but she also paved the way for mainstream WMMA. Dana and the UFC moved quickly and it was only 2 months later that we saw women in the Octagon again with Cat Zingano and Miesha Tate at the TUF 17 finale. A fight so entertaining they both took home Fight Of The Night bonuses. Brilliant! and the fans were now convinced.
I don’t see why Dana had any such reservations about introducing women to the UFC in the first place. There was a wealth of high level female fighters out there; Ronda Rousey of course, former Strikeforce and current Invicta Featherweight Champ, Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino. Now that lady can scrap.
Cyborg has been dubbed the female Wanderlei Silva and I can see why. She is a devastating and ferocious striker and will certainly give Ronda a run for her money if and when the face. There was Cat Zingano, Miesha Tate, Sara McMann and Rosi Sexton. The flying armbar that Rose Namajunas pulled of against Kathina Catron at Invicta was a thing of beauty.
Eventual TUF 18 Champ, Julianna Pena, is a hugely exciting prospect and looks better every time I see her fight. Thankfully Dana seen sense, and since that night back in February 2013 the UFC now has a thriving women’s bantamweight division. We have seen women feature alongside the men in TUF 18 TV show and very recently Dana announced The Ultimate Fighter season 20 will host an all female cast for the first time in the productions history as the UFC introduces a brand new woman’s strawweight division.
Adding women fighters to the UFC roster has certainly raised the profile of his organization and as the female weight divisions grow, they will prove to be a key element in taking the UFC to new levels. Ronda and Co will prove to be the shot in the arm that the UFC needs particularly now that Anderson Silva and GSP are likely to be long term absentees. WMMA can only be good news for the sport, for the UFC and for the fans.
Dana probably regrets not getting involved in WMMA sooner but thankfully the ladies are here and here to stay. Before I sign off I need to say two more things:
1) Matt Brown if you think women don’t have knock out power then go look up Jinh Yu vs Darla Harris on Youtube.
2) I want to wish fellow Scot, Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood the very best of luck in series 20 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Joanne is undefeated at 8 and 0 in her MMA career and is a fantastically devastating and creative striker thanks to her Muay Thai background. I have no doubt Joanne will be the first UK fighter to hold a UFC belt around their waist. Follow me on Twitter @Heffiejr and please get in touch with your comments.