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Women in Mixed Martial Arts

What is Mixed Martial Arts?

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full combat sport that incorporates a wide variety of fighting techniques and skills from other combat sports such as wrestling, boxing, judo, karate, Muay Thai, and many others, as explained by Britannica. MMA fighters train vigorously for their fights and begin well before the date their match occurs. Fighters study their opponent’s abilities and train in different fighting styles to prepare themselves for anything that they could face in the cage.

Points are gained in many different ways. They are earned through accuracy of strikes, their ability to take down their opponent, and control of the fight; whether they can force their opponent to move for them to land effective strikes.

The UFC highlights that there are many ways to end a fight. Fights may end by submission, forcing the opponent to tap and admit defeat due to the inability of the opponent to escape the position they’re in that is causing severe damage or pain that they must tap out. Another way is through referee stoppage or technical knockout. If the referee recognizes that one of the fighters can no longer protect themselves from the opponent’s strikes or that the fighter can no longer proceed to fight for any reason (e.g., injury), they can call off the fight and give the win to the other fighter. The next method of ending a fight is through a knockout. This is similar to the technical knockout. Instead of the fighter almost being completely unconscious, the fighter has been struck to the point that they are completely unconscious and cannot continue the fight at all. The referee is quick to end a fight by knockout to avoid any continuous damage to the unconscious opponent. Lastly, the fight could continue until the time limit (3-5 rounds of five minutes each). At this point, the judges will evaluate how many points they awarded each fighter per round and whoever has the majority wins the fight.

Mixed martial arts is considered a brutal and dangerous sport, but what’s important to understand is that fighters understand the risks involved and choose to participate in the sport.

Former Canadian MMA Legend Georges St. Pierre (Evolve).

History of Women in MMA

Mixed martial arts has existed for centuries if we consider the different fighting styles that have existed over time, such as karate. When MMA evolved and became quite popular in the United States, it was typically men who participated in the sport. Organizations like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) only allowed men to fight in the sport. Women were refused from participating in any way. As mixed martial arts slowly became legal in different parts of the world and as men competed early on, women have only recently become involved with the sport. It’s unclear as to the specific date women were allowed to compete in professional organized martial arts; however, MMA Sucka states that women’s first involvement in fighting was recognized in 1995 for the first women’s MMA tournament that took place in Tokyo, Japan.

The inclusion of women continued to grow slowly when in 2006, the organization Strikeforce held their first female bout. The UFC President, Dana White, stated in 2011 that women would never be allowed to participate in the UFC. At this time, the UFC was becoming incredibly popular and started its reign as the most popular MMA organization in the world. In 2012, White announced that the UFC would hold their first women’s bout in the Women’s Bantamweight division (135lbs limit). According to MMA Sucka, the fight would be the first Women’s Bantamweight Champion, Ronda Rousey, defending her title against Liz Carmouche. Women in the UFC continued to grow and influence other organizations to allow female fighters to participate in the sport.

Former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, Ronda Rousey (Maxim).

Former UFC Women’s Strawweight champion, Zhang Weili (Fighters Only).

Women’s Influence and Impact in the Sport

Soon after, the world’s best female bantamweights started competing under the UFC, entertaining fans all over the world. Rousey, a dominant fighter who was the ultimate spokeswoman for the sport, drew acclaim from all directions, including female action icon Gina Carano who was at the forefront. As more women continued to show interest, talent, and skill, the UFC opened multiple other weight classes for women to perform the same way the men do, as mentioned by the UFC. The women’s weight classes are Strawweight (115-pound limit), Flyweight (125-pound limit), Bantamweight (135-pound limit), and Featherweight (145-pound limit).

Although there were complaints and controversial words towards the organizations allowing women to fight, nevertheless, women proved their resilience and determination, proving to the world that they’re just as powerful fighters as their male counterparts. These women showed girls all over the world from different countries that anyone can become a fighter and participate in things men are more known to do. They show that you can have a different body shape and still be powerful. Whether someone has a smaller frame and thin body parts or if they have a more bulky appearance with a tummy, these female fighters show that your body isn’t something you should be ashamed of. It’s powerful and can do incredible things. Women in MMA continue to break down gender stereotypes and roles, proving that women can do anything men can do, working just as hard and performing just as well.

Article Author: Alizeh Qaiser Article Editors: Valerie Shirobokov, Victoria Huang