“I can’t believe all the people that are here to watch two girls punch each other in the face. I don’t get it.
“I think people are just interested in the shock value of it, but I’m sure the novelty of it will wear off soon.”
This is part of a conversation I overheard between two waitresses just a couple months ago as I sat in a crowded bar waiting for Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche to step into the Octagon for the first ever UFC female championship bout. My initial reaction was to turn around and tell these ladies how wrong they were, but in all truthfulness, many others, myself included, were wondering how well received women’s mixed martial arts would be on the world’s MMA main stage, the UFC Octagon.
Various women’s sports have had a history of limited success in comparison to the men’s version of it and many have called the longevity of women’s mixed martial arts into question. However, since the Rousey vs. Carmouche championship fight, the naysayers are quickly being silenced and realizing the women’s MMA is here to stay, in and outside of the UFC. Here’s why:
1) The Ultimate Fighter. Last month, Dana White, president of the UFC, surprised many by announcing that the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter would feature two female coaches and that both male and female bantamweight fighters would be competing on the show. Prior to season 17, many fans of the reality show were beginning to feel the show was failing to bring in the high level of talent it once had, and that the formula of it had become stale. Opening it up female fighters where there is a high level of talent that has not yet been seen by the world will breathe new life into The Ultimate Fighter series, and I’d be willing to bet the TV ratings will show proof of that.
2) Invicta FC. Founded last year in 2012, Invicta FC, an all-women’s fighting championship, has already put on five successful events and has a sixth on the way. Invicta FC showcases what talented female fighters & great matchmaking can do for the sport. With each event, it is gaining more attention and proving that women’s MMA can have a big enough draw to stand alone.
3) Women’s MMA is just exciting as Men’s (or, anything you can do, I can do better). Mixed martial arts fighters are a combination of top-notch athletes AND entertainers. No one wants to pay to watch a boring fight and it’s hard to get behind and root for a fighter that has a lack luster personality. MMA needs fans to survive which means it must continue to entertain. Luckily, women’s MMA has no shortage of entertaining fighters. Ronda Rousey, is known for her blunt personality and “trash-talk” outside the cage and known for her exciting first-round armbars inside the cage. Many would have argued that her fight with Liz Carmouche was the most exciting of that night. And, at the second women’s UFC fight, electricity filled the air when Cat Zingano and Miesha Tate battled it out in a fast-paced fight that received Fight of the Night Honors. Invicta FC’s Bec Hyatt is another female fighter that fans just can’t get enough of. Even after her loss to Carla Esparza for the Strawweight championship at Invicta FC 4, the adorable trash-talking Aussie’s stock rose, largely in part to her exciting fight style but also because of her ability to connect with fans in a fun, lighthearted way. Rose Namajunas is another Invicta FC fighter that is proving WMMA is for real. At Invicta FC 5, she won via a jaw-dropping 12 second armbar, setting the record for fastest female submission, and 5th fastest submission overall in MMA. These women are just a few of the many names that are putting women’s MMA on the world’s radar.
4) Strong & powerful women in mainstream media. Another reason that Women’s MMA is on the rise is the current culture. Gone are the days that weakling women need rescuing by big, muscle-bound men. Mainstream books, TV shows, and film are all making the shift to portray women as the strong heroine of the story. A few examples include Katniss from The Hunger Games, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in The Avengers, and Merida in Disney’s Brave. The insurgence of strong, kickass women in mainstream media shows the progress and culture shift that is conducive to women’s MMA being widely successful.
5) Women’s MMA on Network TV. This week, the UFC announced that Miesha Tate and Liz Carmouche are set to fight on the main card of UFC on Fox 8 in Seattle on July 27th. This will be the first UFC female bout on network television and for many people out there, it may be the first female fight they will see. This kind of exposure to such a mainstream audience will undoubtedly bring in new fans of women’s MMA and help solidify the certainty that women’s MMA is here to stay.
In a matter of a few months, Women’s Mixed Martial Arts has already come a long way since the night I was in the bar watching the Rousey vs. Carmouche fight. For most MMA fans that doubted if women’s MMA would or could be successful, the doubt has now been washed away. But in case you still aren’t convinced, tune in tomorrow, Saturday April 27th, to UFC 159 on pay-per-view (or get to a sports bar near you) to see Sarah McMann take on Sheila Gaff.
This article comes to us via Lindsey Proctor
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