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New Home for the Ladies in the UFC

By Felicia Spencer

Women in MMA have been looking for solid ground to stand on for years. Female fighters and fans looked to the horizon for the inclusion of women in the UCF yet they continued fighting.  They felt that they had something to prove but without a large audience for support, times were difficult.

With the end of Strikeforce still looming, a promotion in which women have had the most success, women’s MMA appeared fragile. Through the success of InvictaFC and continued exposure of female fights in other promotions, it now looks as though the sport is going to survive. Then, the huge news came in November of 2012 that the first woman had been signed to the UFC.

Women in the UFC bring the division a new level of legitimacy and respect. Exposure to a more mainstream audience will surely get a mixed reaction. Critics will be around forever, but ultimately when MMA fans give the ladies a chance and really look at the skill level they bring to the table, I foresee acceptance of the division at the very least. Once fans get to be more familiar with the athletes, the more they will celebrate them.

‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey has made a splash in the UFC. Some critics could complain that she should not have been “given” her championship title before fighting.  Initially, I agreed that Rousey should have fought for the title instead of being named champion right away. However, looking back on the precedence set with the WEC merger with the UFC back in 2011, the champions of the featherweight and bantamweight divisions (which did not yet exist in the UFC) defended their title in their first UFC fights as well.

To put the first female bout ever in the UFC as the main event on a pay-per-view may seem ludicrous. But the division needs to be treated as legitimately as any men’s division when testing the waters for a permanent position in the octagon. Whether the co-main event consists of more popular fighters than the main event or not is irrelevant when the latter is a title fight.  Fans should never see a title fight on the under card.

The most common argument against the women is that the division lacks depth.  I’ll admit that I’m impressed when an MMA fan can name even three female fighters, from any division. Since when does being unaware of talent imply that it does not exist?  That logic would mean that just because the average person can only name one popular male swimmer in America, there is a lack of depth in the talent pool.

Fans can look forward to some interesting match-ups with Rousey. It is difficult to pinpoint what type of fighter will be most successful against her since she has spent so little overall time in the cage and has been dominant doing so.

The contender match-ups could be just as intriguing as the title fights.  Rumors of Miesha Tate vs. Cat Zingano would make an exciting fight.  Other future possibilities after Liz Carmouche could be Olympic gold medalist in wrestling, Sara McMann, grappling experts Alexis Davis or Shayna Bazler, Cris Cyborg, or Leslie Smith.  With the success of the all-women’s MMA promotion InvictaFC, the women’s bantamweight division will continue to flourish as new stars emerge.

It’s a great time for the ladies in MMA and thanks to Ronda Rousey, the UFC is giving them a stage to compete at the highest level and be recognized for their dedication.

 

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