Last Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas, the TUF 17 Finale event featured the UFC’s second women’s mixed martial arts bout when Miesha Tate squared off against Cat Zingano. The fight would determine who would coach opposite current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. Beyond the implications of coaching on TUF, the fight signified the UFC’s willingness to continue to support women’s mixed martial arts inside the octagon.
Women’s mixed martial arts has been around for years now, but it’s only recently — with the explosion of the sport nationally — that women are getting their chance to shine. Promotions like Bellator, the UFC and Invicta FC, the only all-female promotion, have given women a platform to express a passion for their sport that’s still developing within the mainstream audience. That audience continues to grow as attention is given equally to both males and females within the sport.
Ronda Rousey is a great example of a woman who’s transcended from mixed martial artist to mainstream icon. Rousey, a former Olympic bronze medalist in judo, made her MMA debut in August 2010. In three years the former Olympian has gone from relative unknown to superstar and now the face of women’s MMA moving forward.
On Feb. 23, 2013, champion Ronda Rousey and challenger Liz Carmouche became the first female mixed martial artists to fight in the UFC. This huge moment in MMA history brought a sellout crowd in Anaheim, Calif., to its feet. It also paved the way for last weekend’s fight between Tate and Zingano. So where do we go from here?
At this point women’s mixed martial arts is evolving and changing much like it did 10 years ago for the men. Perhaps the only difference is women’s MMA could be on an accelerated pace due to exposure, mainstream acceptance and the charismatic figures within the sport. Yet the ultimate goal moving forward is to provide females of all ages the same opportunities as the males have.
With the rise of women’s MMA gyms across America, the sport is beginning to see an influx in female participants. Look no further than the gyms on the Peninsula as many owners will tell you that classes have jumped in the amount of female students. Isn’t that what we want to see? Dedication, discipline and physical activity for both males and females? Maybe it’s not the preparation that many find uncomfortable, but rather that for which they are preparing.
Where women’s MMA goes from here on out is in the hands of pioneering promotions, fans and the athletes themselves. While women’s MMA may not resonate with every demographic — much like men’s MMA — it’s important to understand that mixed martial arts has moved past the barbaric stereotypes and obtained the status of a “sport.” The question remaining: Will it catch on with a mass audience?
What’s your take on women’s mixed martial arts? Would you watch it or is it something you’d rather not see? Let me know on Twitter at @scottlevesque.
Scott Levesque writes a weekly column for the Clarion on mixed martial arts. He will cover MMA at the local, state and national levels. His handle on Twitter is @scottlevesque.