COMMENTARY | Mixed martial arts has been dominated by men for much of the sport’s existence, and it’s easy to see why. Boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu are all combat sports that have long appealed to men. It’s not surprising that when those four sports were combined into MMA, men became its core participants.
However, things have changed in the past few years. It began when women such as Tara LaRosa and Miesha Tate went overseas and started competing for organizations like Bodog to make a living. It wasn’t easy, but it was a start.
“My first fight was in early 2006, and women’s MMA was pretty much nonexistent at that point,” Tate said. “Bodog was the first organization, at the time, that embraced women’s MMA, but I don’t feel like we were given the same treatment as their professional guy fighters were. Nonetheless, it was an opportunity.”
Other organizations have stepped up since the days of Bodog. In the United States, Strikeforce and Elite XC led the way by providing opportunities for rising fighters such Cris Cyborg andGina Carano. Both companies did their best to promote women’s MMA, especially when Carano’s career took off.
Soon Bellator got into the act with its first women’s tournament, which was won by Zoila Gurgel in 2010. The tournament featured several high-level female athletes who produced some outstanding fights.
As women like Carano, Cyborg, and Gurgel produced in the cage, MMA fans across the country began to take notice. It didn’t take long before Invicta FC was created in 2012 to give even more women a chance to showcase their talents. The promotion is now planning its sixth show for this July after putting together five outstanding cards in its first year in business.
Finally, the UFC announced that it was creating a women’s division last December. It brought over Strikeforce women’s champion Ronda Rousey and multiple other bantamweights from both Strikeforce and Invicta. In February 2013, Rousey defended her title against Liz Carmouche in the first women’s bout in UFC history. It has since been announced that Rousey and Tate will compete as coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter 18” and fight for the bantamweight title later in the year.