Photo Credit: Esther Lin/MMA Fighting
Saturday, Feb. 28, is going to be a landmark day for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. All the fighters on the pay-per-view card that day will pass their pre-fight drug…….never mind. That’s too easy.
That day will be the first time a UFC card features women’s bouts in both its co-main event and main event. After middleweight champion Chris Weidman was forced to withdraw from his fight against Vitor Belfort due to injury, the new main event at UFC 184 is Ronda Rousey defending her women’s bantamweight belt against Cat Zingano. In the co-main event, much-heralded prospect Holly Holm will make her UFC debut against Raquel Pennington in another women’s bantamweight fight.
As I’ve mentioned before, UFC has come a long way from when Dana White told TMZ that women would “never” fight in his organization. Rousey will main event her third consecutive February PPV and Holm is widely believed to be the next in line for a shot at the title, should she defeat Pennington. Holm is still very raw in mixed martial arts, but trains with the world renowned coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn.
Rousey is carrying the flag for women’s MMA and for women in the UFC. Other female fighters have followed her into the Octagon, including Miesha Tate, Liz Carmouche and Alexis Davis. What do those three have in common? They all also fell to Rousey – Tate twice in Strikeforce and the UFC, and Carmouche and Davis both in the first round at UFC PPVs in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Rousey and Tate’s feud is well-chronicled. It led to the two being coaches on The Ultimate Fighter, which included female fighters for the very first time who greatly outshined their male counterparts on the show that season.
Given that season’s success, the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter featured ALL female fighters and the debut of the UFC’s newest division, women’s strawweight. Carla Esparza, the former Invicta FC strawweight champion, won the inaugural UFC version of that belt after defeating Rose Namajunas.
So in the span of four years, UFC goes from having no female fighters and White emphatically stating that it never will, to being home to TWO female weight classes and undoubtedly the promotion’s biggest star right now in Rousey. Don’t believe me? Did you see the third Expendables movie? Or do you plan on seeing the film version of Entourage this summer? You might notice a familiar face.
So where does women’s MMA go from here? I am personally a big fan of female fights, as they tend to be among the more entertaining and action-packed fights on a UFC card. As I previously stated, female fighters are more than capable of outshining their male contemporaries. Why is that? Maybe female fighters feel they have more to prove inside the Octagon and always go for broke. Maybe they go into the Octagon with more of a “go for broke” mentality and actively seek a finish as opposed to “playing it safe.”
The fight between Rousey and Zingano on Feb. 28 will also go a long way toward determining the future of women’s MMA. Should Rousey defeat Zingano – which all signs indicate she will – she will have essentially cleaned out her division, with only unknown challengers like Holm and Bethe Correia left. If Zingano pulls the upset, then the division has a fresh batch of exciting matchups waiting.
But who knows what would have happened if Dana White kept his promise to TMZ?
Chris Huntemann writes about mixed martial arts in the state of Maryland. He also contributes his thoughts to our site on the UFC, Bellator, and World Series of Fighting. Check out his blog, or follow him on Twitter: @mmamaryland.