Every business needs to expand if it wants to grow. In mixed martial arts, this holds especially true. Promotions must accomplish goals in order to grow, from filling weight divisions with various talent to putting forth an effort in showcasing the brand to global markets and more mainstream audiences.

The UFC, known far and away as the premier mixed martial arts promotion in the world, carries its product to all corners of the world, including Canada, Brazil, Australia and Japan. In doing so, it also packs the power needed to support nine weight divisions, including a women’s bantamweight division that features Miesha Tate, Cat Zingano, Sarah Kaufman, Amanda Nunes, Liz Carmouche and UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, among others.

Suppose for a moment that the UFC expanded its roster of female fighters, though. It would face the question of whether to introduce the women’s featherweight (145-pound) division or the flyweight (125-pound) division, as well as questions of why it opted to create a new women’s division when its women’s bantamweight pool, while talented, remains shallow.

The Ultimate Fighter 18, which will showcase both the women’s and men’s bantamweight divisions, will put step one of the UFC’s plan to solve that problem in motion. A strong season and a stronger finale promises to attract more of the best women’s bantamweights, but let’s revisit the question of the women’s flyweight and featherweight classes. If the UFC wants to add another one, which should it be?

Fans may get the likes of Marloes Coenen, Veronica Rothenhausler, Julia Budd and others with a UFC women’s featherweight class, but the focus would surround Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. Honestly, the women’s featherweight class stands as little more than “Cyborg and everyone else” at this point. Still, if Cyborg did not even look good in her UFC debut, many would write off the division altogether simply because its most prominent name turned in one bad outing.

The flyweights, on the other hand, would come in with less expectations because fans would not know exactly what to expect. Jessica Eye, Barb Honchak, Leslie Smith and Vanessa Porto represent four of the best of the division, but what of Jennifer Maia, Colleen Schneider, Munah Holland, Marianna Kheyfets or any other woman in the flyweight ranks? In general, the women’s flyweight division remains as much under the radar as their male counterparts, but the level of depth that it contains is surprising.

Although the flyweights or featherweights seem like the next logical progression in the UFC’s expansion into the world of female mixed martial artists, the rumor that has made the rounds recently has to do with the 115-pound strawweight ladies. As long as the subject remains active, we must ask if the UFC really would bring in strawweights, if given the chance. Right now, the UFC doesn’t appear in a rush to do so, but that can always change. The promotion knows strawweights that currently inhabit Invicta FC’s ranks inevitably will create the same buzz that the women’s featherweight and bantamweight divisions did, and the promotion also knows that with Invicta FC in business, fans will talk about the strawweights long enough for the UFC brass to notice. According to the rumors, which suggest that the UFC has been asking around about top strawweights, perhaps the promotion’s interest in the 115ers has already been piqued.

Invicta FC does house the best in the world at 115 pounds, including champion Carla Esparza and contenders Bec Hyatt, Claudia Gadelha and Mizuki Inoue. However, Invicta has been agreeable thus far in sharing talent (though an UFC expansion into multiple divisions could cripple Invicta’s business model and cause the promotion to be more reluctant in allowing free passage for its fighters to depart for the Octagon). Invicta also holds a virtual monopoly over the 115-pound division, though there are some notable names fighting elsewhere. Invicta only really needs Felice Herrig to cement its claim as the home of the women’s strawweight division, but if the UFC created a division for strawweights, nothing would stop UFC President Dana White from pursuing Herrig, and even less would stop him from signing any other under-the-radar strawweight in women’s MMA.

The UFC knows all about expansion because it spent over a decade expanding MMA to where it currently stands as a sport. It took its brand all over the world, and it will look to break into other markets that currently do not feature MMA events regularly. Now, with women’s MMA under its umbrella, the UFC will look to expand those divisions and help women’s MMA grows as much as the sport as a whole grew. Should expanding its women’s roster mean answering fan demand about incorporating strawweights and flyweights into the product, the UFC will in fact shake the MMA world up once again.

Photo: Carla Esparza (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.