Asian MMA

Why ONE Championship Should Expand Their Women’s Divisions

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During the debut of the sister of “Super” Sage Northcutt – Colbey Northcutt – it was easy to tell that the Asian promotional giant ONE Championship was serious about entering the Western market.

However, Northcutt towered over her opponent Putri Padmi, and it made for an awkward match to watch as the former would score hits more easily than the latter could even try to. Alas, a lot of work needs to be done – specifically with their women’s roster, if they would like to gain further traction with Western audiences.

The two sides of ONE

First off, there aren’t as many “Western” fighters on the women’s rosters as there are on the men’s, much less those of the same height. Eddie Alvarez can compete a lot more comfortably at 175 cm, facing opponents like former Lightweight World Champions Christian Lee (180 cm), Shinya Aoki (180 cm), and Edward Folayang (170 cm). Colbey Northcutt, however, is taller than most of the Women’s Flyweight division at 175 cm, except for Ukraine’s Iryna Kyselova, who is only one centimeter taller than Northcutt.

A quick search of the ONE roster would show that there are not as many on the Women’s Flyweight division (56.7 kg) as in Atomweight (52 kg) – the latter featuring the likes of Mei “V. V.” Yamaguchi and defending World Champion Angela “Unstoppable” Lee. However, men’s Flyweight is home to champion Adriano Moraes and features the likes of Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson alongside Team Lakay’s Geje Eustaquio and Danny Kingad.

This could be mainly due to the fact that Asians aren’t the tallest people in the world, in general, and female Asians even more so.

Two-sport champ Stamp Fairtex, who has recently ventured into the MMA-side of ONE and won the inaugural Atomweight Grand Prix, is only 157 cm tall. “Unstoppable” Lee is 164 cm. “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan, the current Women’s Strawweight champion who battled her belt out of the grasp of Angela Lee in March 2019, is 165 cm and most of her division falls around the same height – even Michelle Nicolini is 160 cm.

But that is beside the point. The point is that there is room for growth and change, but alas, change has not yet happened, and there has not been word of it being on the horizon.

The current state of ONE

Despite having a pioneer of women’s MMA, Miesha “Cupcake” Tate, within their team, there has not been as significant a growth in the women’s divisions over the years. The Atomweight Grand Prix just happened last year, and “The Panda” only defended her Strawweight belt once.

The Atomweight division is chock-full of talent, with the top being, of course, Angela Lee. There is also multiple-time belt-contender Mei Yamaguchi and Stamp Fairtex, who was a multi-sport champion in Muay Thai and Kickboxing and now flourishing in the MMA circuit. Alongside them, there is former “Survivor” contestant Bi “Killer Bee” Nguyen, while representing South East Asia are the likes of Jihin “Shadowcat” Radzuan and Denice “The Menace” Zamboanga

Numbers beyond the Atomweight division are reduced drastically – one could count the number of athletes in the Women’s Strawweight division on one hand.

It is sad to see because there are many female athletes with incredible potential for success in their respective divisions within ONE, not only in Atomweight or Strawweight. Suppose the ever-growing Asian promotion seeks to grow their audience outside of Asia, as we know they do. In that case, they need to concentrate on growing their women’s divisions and bringing up more female “heroes”, as they like to call their athletes, from various backgrounds.

Room to grow

This does not mean their current women’s divisions are boring – far from it. The aforementioned Atomweight Grand Prix was a delight from start to finish, and the upcoming battle between Stamp and Lee will be an exciting one. ONE Championship needs to grow as a promotion, just as their athletes do.

While things do not look great for fighters like Northcutt, there are still plenty of opportunities for ONE to grow over the next few years. So long as they are willing to put in the work to develop and start new divisions, there is no shortage of female fighters across weight divisions that should be willing to join their roster.

If ONE can put more effort towards expanding their women’s divisions, as they have with their men’s, they will find a lot more success in grasping the Western markets.

Featured Image courtesy of ONE Championship

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Jasmin is a writer-photographer who has worked in video games, music, travel, and more recently, MMA. Her fight background is in TKD, Muay Thai and Boxing though she's always wanted to roll with the BJJ crew. Follow her on Twitter @blaise_MMA

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