Arguably the biggest news in the world of MMA over the last week or two has been that the UFC is finally opening its doors to female fighters. For years, UFC President Dana White had made it clear to reporters that women would never fight in the Octagon, primarily due to the lack of depth that exists in women’s fighting. Without said depth, it would be difficult to maintain an interesting division, which ultimately kept women out of the UFC.
Over the last couple of years, women’s MMA has emerged. In 2009, Strikeforce crowned Cris “Cyborg” Santos as its first-ever women’s champion, at 145 pounds. The promotion created a second women’s championship the following year, and had two female fighters wearing gold around their waist. Also in 2010, Bellator Fighting Championships crowned its first female champion, Zoila Gurgel. Invicta Fighting Championships, a promotion exclusively for women’s MMA, was created in 2012 and has held three shows in the past year, all of which did extremely well with fans and the media alike.
This growth likely had a lot to do with the decision for the UFC to finally open its doors to holding women’s fights, but the straw that broke the camel’s back had to be the superstar emergence of Ronda Rousey. The now former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion became the face of the sport after she armbarred her way to the top, and she hasn’t let go of that distinction.
There was a time where other ladies, most notably Gina Carano, were at the top of the sport, but not in the same way as Rousey. She has been spotted on the red carpet alongside White, on the cover of ESPN magazine, and on a t-shirt, featuring a picture of her from the cover of ESPN magazine, being worn by White at the UFC weigh-ins.
It has been confirmed that “Rowdy” has officially signed a contract with the UFC, and she will be the champion of the lone female division—at 135 pounds—that the UFC will have. The big question from here that needs to be answered is, who will she square off against in the first female fight in UFC history?
Two names immediately jump out of people’s mouths when asked this. First, Cyborg. Second, Miesha Tate.
Santos comes to mind because she was the Strikeforce featherweight champion who was destroying everyone in her way before her positive test for steroids. Not to mention the fact that Rousey, after her most recent fight, called out Santos.
Tate’s presence on the short list is the result of her being the one that Rousey took the strap from. Tate lasted the longest in the cage with the champion, and she also has sex appeal.
So, who should Rousey fight?
It should be Cyborg. Not only is it is a fight that Rousey and the UFC brass want, but it would be a fight between two of the best female mixed martial artists on the planet. The problem with all of this is that Rousey feels that Santos should come down from featherweight, but recently the Brazilian’s doctors released a statement claiming that she should not make the move to bantamweight if she wants to bear children in the future. All of this could be for show, but for now, this fight is an unfortunate impossibility.
Which leaves Tate. Right out of the gate, this would be a match-up promoted through their sex appeal.
Sex sells, and it played a large part in the initial fan interest in women’s MMA. Had the beautiful Gina Carano not emerged into the public eye in 2007, women’s MMA may not have taken off as quickly as it did. The combination of Carano’s skills and her good looks reeled in fans.
Although women’s MMA is more established now, with its own contingent of fans who don’t need eye candy in order to watch ladies fight, the attractiveness of Rousey and Tate would still play a big part in selling a UFC women’s bout to the masses.
Putting Tate and Rousey in front of one another again would not only be easy on the eyes, but it would be a fine display between two of the top women in the fight game. The intrigue would lie in whether Tate can adapt to what Rousey did in their first encounter and overcome the Olympic medalist’s lethal armbars in the second go-around. They put on an exciting fight the first time they squared off, and they would put on another exciting fight in the rematch.
The only difference is that this time it would be on the biggest stage of the sport, the Octagon.
Photo: Ronda Rousey (James Law/Heavy MMA)