Jessica Aguilar submits Alida Gray (Lucas Noonan/WSOF)Options Abound: Strawweights Not Limited to The Ultimate Fighter 20 Corey Adams May 22, 2014 Spotlight The upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter, which will feature the first look at female strawweights fighting inside the Octagon, has the makings to be one of the most exciting seasons in the show’s history. The likes of Carla Esparza, Joanne Calderwood and Tecia Torres, among others, are already set to participate in the show, and the remaining list of cast members will be finalized soon, now that the open tryouts in Las Vegas have ended. Some ladies will move one step closer to getting an opportunity to fight on the biggest stage, but others will be sent home, left looking for other places to help further themselves in their careers. However, they may not have to search far and wide to find an organization that welcomes them with open arms. After all, UFC officials weren’t the only important onlookers at the tryouts. Invicta FC matchmaker Julie Kedzie was reportedly on hand to scout the women who were competing. With many of Invicta’s top talent now joining the UFC, the promotion is searching for strawweights to fill those holes. Twenty-eight 115-pound fighters will remain as free agents once the UFC makes its selections. Invicta, as an all-women’s organization, will have great interest in all of those ladies, and Kedzie will be able to give several fighters a chance to prove themselves in front of a large audience. Just look at how a fighter like Esparza, for example, climbed up the ranks. She started in small regional promotions. Even after her two fights in Bellator were unsuccessful, she was still able to garner interest from the XFC, where she notched a victory over Felice Herrig, and Invicta, where she needed just two wins before she was granted a title shot. Esparza would go on to become arguably the top strawweight in the world, only rivaled for that distinction by Jessica Aguilar, who defeated her in the Bellator cage. Now, Esparza gets her opportunity to further her claim as the top strawweight when she takes part in The Ultimate Fighter 20. This should give those individuals who didn’t make the final cut for tryouts a ton of confidence. And don’t worry if Invicta doesn’t approach with an offer. There are still other mainstream promotions to consider. There’s the World Series of Fighting, for one. The WSOF is a company that continues to put together strong efforts on the NBC Sports Network. WSOF has already brought in the aforementioned Aguilar, arguably the top 115-pound fighter in the world, along with such notables as Emi Fujino, who will challenge for Aguilar’s belt at WSOF 10 on June 21, and Ashlee Evans-Smith, who has fought at featherweight and plans to move to bantamweight in the near future. However, beyond that handful of fighters, the promotion is still very early in the process of developing women’s divisions that range from featherweight to atomweight. Although Invicta, with its strong structure and a matchmaker in Kedzie who is well known and respected by female fighters, may have first dibs on selecting fighters, the WSOF still has the potential to ink several deals. In April, I discussed the different possibilities the organization had regarding female fighters, and after some initial doubts, I realized the WSOF is in a good position. The promotion has a recognizable champion, and if it is able to get a few names out of the list of those that try out for The Ultimate Fighter, then even more of the building blocks will be there. Another option is Xtreme Fighting Championships, which has remained consistent in putting on female fights across the globe. The problem with the XFC is bringing in fighters that MMA fans recognize and fostering a stable women’s division. It has often targeted less familiar names, though that does appear to be changing. With its American efforts on temporary hold, the promotion watched its strawweight champion, Stephanie Eggink, sign with Invicta. Meanwhile, the promotion did add an injection of new talent for its Brazilian-based efforts, which continue to roll along. With a long list of hopeful women out there now, the XFC is there not just to scoop up what’s left, but to continue developing to get back into the scene, especially for its eventual return to U.S. shores. Promotions like the WSOF and XFC can’t necessarily afford to put together a stacked roster of girls on par with the UFC, or even Invicta, but those two promotions wouldn’t mind giving contracts to those who were turned down at the tryouts. And let’s face it, the UFC isn’t going anywhere, either. The ladies who don’t make to the reality show will still have chances to fight at the highest level. If a fighter is able to go on a run, the UFC could come calling again. Some strawweights could be shown the door quickly if they don’t succeed in the Octagon, and there will always be spots for replacements to step in. While they wait, places like Invicta, the WSOF and the XFC offer a nice proving ground. The tryout hopefuls who were turned away by the UFC won’t be non-factors for the B-level organizations, either. They could turn out to be future champions, turning wise moves by promotions into success stories for the fighter and the promotion that gives them a shot. Christopher Chestnut What about CageSport for strawweights? I think ur forgetting that Pena came up through there. Right now They’ve got two great fighters (Amy Cadwell and Katie Howard), who are actually going to fight in a different org in a week and a half or so. Look for the winner of that to be top the top 115 prospect in the Pacifiic NW.