Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Just days after rumours began swirling that Bellator MMA was in talks with both Gina Carano and Marloes Coenen, one of the two lauded women’s MMA fighters has signed. Coenen, per an announcement on Bellator’s website, will join the promotion’s newly created featherweight division, along with veteran fighter Julia Budd, a former Invicta FC and Strikeforce competitor.
Whether other weight classes follow remains to be seen, but the inclusion of Coenen and Budd in a featherweight division is a smart move by Bellator, who can now offer fighters like Carano and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino something the UFC cannot: a chance to fight at a more natural weight, without a difficult cut down to the 135-pound bantamweight limit.
While the number of top-tier women’s fighters at 145 pounds is far from the one at bantamweight, you’d have to imagine that at least a couple of current bantamweight fighters would consider moving up to a thinner division, and with the growing popularity of the women’s side of the sport, you can expect more competitors to join in the coming years.
This is clearly a change driven by new Bellator captain Scott Coker, who Coenen and Budd fought for under the Strikeforce banner and who is very familiar with the women’s side of the sport, having helped it gain popularity prior to Zuffa‘s acquisition of the promotion he founded.
Coenen and Budd will square off later this fall. Bellator’s statement doesn’t indicate if it will be for the featherweight championship, but that would make sense.