UFC President Dana White has now officially stated that Strikeforce 135lb. women’s champion Ronda Rousey is the first female title holder in the UFC history. With Strikeforce apparently closing up shop in 2013 many of the contracted fighters will be brought over to the UFC. Rousey is leading the way as the champion of the new UFC bantamweight women’s division.
This is the first time a female fighter has been employed by the UFC. While she has been under Zuffa contract it wasn’t that long ago when the chances of her or any other female fighting in the UFC were non-existent.
Will women’s MMA really be a focal point for Dana White? Is this only happening because of Dana’s fondness of Rousey and the marketing potential she brings? These all are questions fans are wondering yet we won’t really know until the first fight happens and how they plan on moving forward with the entire division.
No question other women will be brought on board as one fighter does not make a division. Since the bantamweights are the only ones the UFC plans on utilizing, their choice is somewhat limited. The most obvious omission will be Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos. A long rumoured matchup between Cyborg and Rousey may never come to fruition unless Cyborg is able to drop down a weight class and somehow make 135 pounds.
A report came out last week that a doctor recommended Cyborg not make the drop to 135 due to potential negative health effects. While that is only one doctor’s opinion it has to be something to consider for her once she is ready to fight again.
A catchweight is an option for this fight but Rousey is the champion and defending it should be the focus of the UFC if they want to develop the new division. Moving their brand new champion out of her weight class and potentially losing a fight before there is a title defense would lose all credibility for the champion. Knowing Dana White and how he does business the only way the fight happens, at least in the near future is at 135 pounds.
One complaint about female fighters was the lack of depth available. Bellator and Invicta FC have been able to use many top women fighters and entertain their crowds with exciting bouts. The UFC will sift through the Strikeforce contacted fighters then work on plucking anyone they can from other organizations. Without a deep division this venture into women’s MMA will not be successful. The fans need to see fights fairly often with contenders lining up for a shot at Rousey. Promoting one or two fights a year will only make it look more like a freak show and a division the UFC doesn’t care about.
The women of the sport deserve far better than to be buried on an occasional undercard and used sparingly throughout the year. The UFC needs to go “all in” with this and load up on as much talent as they can find. Fighters like Miesha Tate, Alexis Davis, Marloes Conen, Sara McMann, Amanda Nunes and Sarah Kaufman are just the tip of the iceberg. While they are some of the elite of the division there is more still needed. A version of the Ultimate Fighter with an all women’s cast would be a great tool to find new stars that will grow the division and introduce the hunger and determination these women have to UFC fans.
Dana’s infatuation with Rousey is a good thing if it leads to a thriving division allowing the UFC fans base to see the the fury the women deliver in the cage. If Rousey was to lose her belt and Dana then loses interest in the division it will be shameful to the rest of the fighters.
Dana is a business man and wants to put on fights the fans want to see. Many UFC fans are unfamiliar with the female mixed martial artists out there so some education will be needed. Will the UFC be patient enough to do that when they know they can just pack a card full of former TUF contestants or other male fighters the fans already know?
Female mixed martial arts has come a long way in a very short time. We have seen some incredible fights that steal the show at different events. Rousey has the makings of a marketable champion but she is not the only person who will make the division worthwhile in the UFC. Fans need to see more than just Rousey defending her belt a couple times a year on a UFC pay-pew-view. Dana needs to invest in a wealth of talent and feature all of them on various cards throughout the year.
It is a new path for the UFC so they will not get everything right once they start this journey. However, the full effort has to be there to give these women what they truly deserve; their own active division in the UFC.
Written by Mike McPhee
Follow me on Twitter @ManCaveMMA