Saturday night’s Ronda Rousey/Liz Carmouche bout at UFC 157 was the culmination of a long journey for women in MMA.
There are plenty of great female fighters in the world of mixed martial arts, but up until around six years ago, they were forced to either fight in Japan, the only place where there was an all-female MMA promotion until 2012, or wait for the day when MMA would invite them to join the club.
If these past six years or so have taught us anything, it’s that women are now in the club, and they’re not leaving. First it was EliteXC, then Strikeforce and Bellator, and finally the UFC that welcomed female bouts onto their cards with the hopes of cashing in on one becoming a star.
In America, female MMA has become part of the fabric of the sport, and the sport has benefited from it. Strikeforce and Bellator have both advertised and had female bouts as main-events of cards with the result almost always being an entertaining and quality bout.
For many years, the only female fighter with name value enough to be known in the MMA world was Megumi Fujii. Sometimes called the “Female Fedor,” Fujii won the first 22 fights of her career and became the fighter to beat for a female to gain legitimacy among those who follow the sport.
Fujii, when history has its say, will likely be known as the woman who helped make female MMA legitimate, but also that she was only a star in her home country of Japan.
In the U.S., the first female star was Gina Carano. Then came Christiane “Cyborg” Santos after she brutalized Carano, and now it’s Rousey, after her rise in the sport over the last two years.
The journey has been a long one, but female fighters have gained legitimacy in MMA and now have reached the top of the sport.
Saturday was proof of this, with the first female bout in UFC history not being just part of a card, but the main event of a card. This is important because being in the main-event of a card means having the most pressure to draw both at the gate and on pay-per-view, as well as the most blame or recognition depending on how the card does financially. The other reason being in the main event is so important is that it is the last image and impression of the card that the audience gets, so it had better be a good one.
If Saturday’s bout had been a dud, it could’ve made Dana White think twice about whether or not to pursue female MMA in his promotion. Instead, the bout turned out to be the toughest test of Rousey’s career, and a compelling, action-filled bout that made a great first impression for those unfamiliar with female MMA.
For those who follow and enjoy female MMA, it was a vindication.