Women in Combat Sports – International Women’s Day 2021 Special

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Women in combat sports are still unfairly looked over. Some of the greatest, most dominant athletes in MMA and boxing are female and yet still rarely get spoken about in ‘main stream’ media outlets. The average person in a sports bar will have heard of Conor McGregor, Israel AdesanyaTyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, but ask them to name female stars and they’d likely struggle. We take a look at some of the greatest women in combat sports and give a nod as to why they’re considered so great.


UFC president Dana White once said ‘never‘ when asked when we’ll see women in the UFC. Since this statement in 2011, there has been a rise of women’s divisions in the UFC (four to date), multiple shows and PPV events headlined by women and a number of big female stars. Ronda Rousey is credited with largely breaking down the barriers and welcoming women into the UFC. Following pure domination in StrikeForce, Rousey fought Liz Carmouche as the women’s bantamweight champion, headlining UFC 157. After a dominant start to her UFC career, Rousey shot to fame appearing in a number of acting roles before leaving the UFC for the WWE.

Rousey and Carmouche UFC 157

ANAHEIM, CA – FEBRUARY 22: (L-R) Opponents Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche pose for photos during the UFC 157 weigh-in at Honda Center on February 22, 2013 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

One of the other pioneers of women’s MMA is certainly Gina Carano. Carano made her debut back in 2006, dominating all opponents until she ran into Cris Cyborg. Carano is largely recognised as one of the pioneers in women’s MMA due to competing in the first-ever sanctioned bout in Las Vegas. Carano used her platform to go into acting, starring in Disney’s, The Mandalorian‘ in recent years.

Modern-day Female Killers

It would be hard to mention any women in combat sports, specifically in MMA without giving a nod to those who are still active. The aforementioned Cris Cyborg currently holds the Bellator featherweight title following a 6-1 stint in the UFC. That one blemish on her record comes at the hands (fists) of the consensus GOAT, Amanda Nunes. The champ-champ, Nunes has been the most dominant force the women’s MMA scene has ever witnessed. Dominating almost every opponent she has faced in recent years, Nunes is quickly running out of options as to who to face.

On dominant champions, we can’t not mention Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Poland’s queen started her MMA career 14-0. Despite dropping off lately, she is one of the most recognisable faces on the roster. One of her recent losses came at the hands of Zhang Weili. Weili is the first-ever Chinese UFC champion, carrying the flag with her exciting style, heavy hands and solid well-rounded game. She is a superstar in the making and is doing everything right to go down as a legend.

Notable mentions certainly go out to Holly HolmValentina ShevchenkoAngela Lee, Meisha Tate and many many more women who helped put women in combat sports on the map.


Women in combat sports, on the whole, are treated the same. In the UFC they get similar pay, fight for the same amount of scheduled time and get the same opportunities. Then there is boxing. Women in boxing are underpaid, under-appreciated and largely disrespected. Still, women only fight two-minute rounds as opposed to the three minutes endured by men. They only have 10 round title fights, whereas men have 12 rounds and this leads to questions being asked about equality and often prevents them from getting the ‘viral knockout’. This aside as it’s a debate for another day, we look at some of the women who have put boxing on the map.

Claressa Shields refers to herself as the GWOAT. The two time Olympic gold medalist has gone into the professional ranks and taken over. This past weekend she became the first world champion in the ‘four-belt era’ to hold undisputed titles in two different weight divisions. This is huge and is largely going under the radar. At just 11-0 she has shown pure domination over everyone shes faced, proving just how much of a phenom she is. She began training MMA recently which has excited fans massively.

Irish Takeover

No, not Conor McGregor. Katie Taylor is one of the best female boxers currently competing. 17-0, Taylor holds all four belts in the lightweight division, having dominated (almost) ever opponent shes faced in her career thusfar. An Olympic gold medalist, Taylor is ranked the #1 P4P female boxer currently as per Boxrec, showing just how good she is.

Notable mentions in the world of women in combat sports with regards to boxing have to go to Holly Holm (again), Delfine PersoonCecilia Braekhus, Amanda SerranoHeather Hardy (special shoutout for crossing over into MMA) and Jane Couch.

Other Women in Combat Sports

There are a whole host of women in combat sports that haven’t been mentioned. Stamp FairfaxTiffany van Soest and Jorina Baars have dominated kickboxing in recent years, with Fairfax crossing over into MMA as of late.

Paige Van-Zant, whilst not setting the combat sports world alight with her skill, has crossed over into the mainstream and has put women in combat sports on the map.

Kayla Harrison is an Olympic gold medalist, twice in Judo and has made the transition into MMA in a dominant fashion in recent years.

There are a whole host of women in combat sports that haven’t got a mention in this article. Think we’ve missed anyone major? Please let us know your opinions on who should have been mentioned!

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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