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The meteoric rise in popularity of women's MMA

We look back at the meteoric rise of women's MMA in the past couple of years, and how it can only get better for the women going forward.

“Leave the fight to the men”. How many times was the fairer sex taunted by the same phrase? When it comes to contact sports, the men ruled the roost for more than a century. When was the last time a woman was promoted as heavily as the men? Fortunately, that aspect is quickly changing thanks to one person in particular, who has not only taken the world of contact sports by storm, but has also opened the doors to Hollywood for women, similar to what Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had done for the WWE superstars more than a decade ago.

When one journalist asked Dana White couple of years ago if we could ever see women in the UFC, Dana replied by saying, “Never ever”. Much like in professional wrestling, the “never say never” quote applies to any other industry, and that was proved when a certain Ronda Rousey created shockwaves and became one of the most recognizable faces in the world of mixed martial arts.

With her roles in Expendables 3 and Fast and Furious 7, Ronda has taken Hollywood by storm, and is at the top of the pecking order in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. She also became the first woman, along with her opponent Cat Zingano to main event a UFC PPV at UFC 184 last month.

With Gina Carano already becoming an established star in Hollywood, women’s MMA needed that one strong push that would finally put them on the map, and give the women their rightful place in mixed martial arts as equals to the men. With UFC now having a Strawweight division along with the already existing Bantamweight division, this would certainly imply that WMMA is being taken seriously, and last week might very well turn out to be the turning point for the women in MMA.

Not only did Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano headline UFC’s 184 PPV, the co-main event was headlined by Raquel Pennington and Holly Holm. During the same weekend, Invicta FC – the female only organization came out with IFC 11, which was headlined by Charmaine Tweet and the IFC Featherweight champion, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. With Ronda finishing her opponent in just 14 seconds and Cyborg finishing her fight in just under a minute, the talk about the super fight between the two has heated up once again.

The next decision Dana White has to take involves the two women, with Dana not allowing a catchweight fight between Ronda and Cyborg just yet. The rise in WMMA isn’t just confined to the United States; Combat Cage Fight, a local promotion in Goa is set to come out with CCF 2, which will be headlined by two women, with Bonny Van Oortmerssen from the United Kingdom taking on Monika Malik from India in one of the two international fights on the card.

Needless to say, women’s MMA has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. What was once seen as a male-dominated sport, where women’s participation was not only brushed off, but laughed upon has seen a tremendous change in perspectives of the people. While this change cannot be attributed to one person, the fact that there were catalysts to help bring about the change played a pivotal role.

It can be argued, and Dana White himself had once admitted, that without Ronda Rousey, there would be no women’s division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Ronda Rousey recently said that she could even beat the male fighters, and we might not be far from a day when inter – gender fights are promoted by global MMA organizations.

But one thing is for certain – women’s MMA has seen a meteoric rise in the past couple of years, and can only grow bigger in the future, and with another Ronda Rousey in the mix, there may come a day when the women out – do their male counterparts in terms of fight purse and headlining PPVs. 

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