The rise of women in MMA: A decade of progress

    Ronda Rousey - women in mma
    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 30: Ronda Rousey prepares to face Amanda Nunes of Brazil in their UFC women's bantamweight championship bout during the UFC 207 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 30, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    In the past ten years, Mixed Martial Arts has made amazing social progress. In particular, all-female cards are now commonplace, and what’s more, ‘MMA legend’ is no longer a male-exclusive status. The UFC, in particular, was reportedly resistant – initially – to opening up the gender divide. 

    Women in MMA

    However, as many fans remember, Ronda Rousey changed all of that. And since her rise to fame in the past decade, it’s clear that there is just as much thirst for female MMA as there is for male bouts. There is, of course, a way to come – there have been some concerns over the pay divides between the genders – but MMA has seen remarkable progress in a very short space of time.

    MMA isn’t bound by gender perceptions, but by ability, performance, and endurance. Many fans go ahead and bet based on style, track record, and charisma. Best Odds is a bettor’s best friend. The site provides the best odds and bonus offers for sports betting fans.

    It all started with Rousey

    The growing profile of female MMA, if not MMA in general, owes much to Ronda Rousey. She was a landmark signing for UFC in 2012, at a time when female fighting was considered niche. If anything, UFC bosses may have considered the move an experiment of sorts.

    However, it’s an experiment that made bank. Rousey became the face of UFC for several years and was in fact the highest paid combatant on their roster by mid-decade. Since that time, an expansion in marketing towards female MMA fans, and those who appreciate female fighters, continues to widen.

    It was, arguably, Rousey’s attitude that breathed new life into the concept of female fighting in UFC, and MMA in general. The Olympic medalist offered an attitude and a charisma that many in the industry barely expected. Rousey’s appeal was compelling, and therefore, she offered the ideal launchpad for other female fighters to follow along in her stead.

    But it doesn’t end with her

    Of course, anyone with a cursory or even vague knowledge of female MMA, maybe even MMA in general, will likely know of Ronda Rousey. However, while her story is exceptional and important to progression in the sport, there are plenty more female fighters following her to push the boundaries even further.

    Many refer to Cristiane Justino, for example, in the same breath as Rousey, if not outright claiming the Cyborg to be outright on par. Setting up a record of 14-1 at the age of 30, including victories over the likes of trailblazer Gina Carano, have only helped to raise MMA’s profile even further. Cyborg’s modus operandi, it seems, is to lead by knockout – which makes for electric viewing, even if it means matches barely go beyond the first round of action.

    Sarah Kaufman is another name in female MMA who, in fact, has been just as instrumental as Rousey in bringing women fighters to the fore. Before Rousey signed any contracts with Dana White, Kaufman was creating an impressive buzz behind the scenes. Of course, she too would sign with UFC in time, eventually going on to become one of the most successful bantamweight fighters on the circuit.

    From 2014 to 2017, straw weight Joanna Jedrzejczyk went unbeaten. The Polish pugilist has defied many rising stars in MMA with her own style of aggression and fury. She really has been a sight to watch – and thankfully, the breaking down of gender barriers within MMA is only helping fans to see more fighters of her caliber rise to the challenge.

    Where do we go from here?

    While female MMA fighters inarguably expand the fanbase and the scope for new viewers and supporters, there are concerns that there needs to be more equality with regard to representation and marketing. Not only that, but there are also growing concerns over pay gaps.

    It stands to reason those discussions about gender within MMA will continue. However, many believe this will have a positive slant – the female talent within UFC, for example, are worthy of our praise and support, and certainly never our ignorance.

    Mathematically, it makes sense that ‘opening the field’ to female stars as well as male fighters would effectively double the interest. Will female fighting overtake male pugilism in the years to come? We will simply have to wait and see.


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