The Rise Of Female UFC Fighters: The History of Women Fighting in UFC
Like many fighting sports, the world of MMA was dominated by men for a long time. However, in the last decade, we have seen the audiences and profile of women's fighting increase considerably.
As the profile of female fighters has increased, so has the number of women watching the sport.
UFC is the biggest MMA fighting company in the world. The company was founded in 1992 and didn't allow women fighters for the first 20 years of its existence. However, in 2012 it bought up a competing company and created its own female fighting league. The first woman to join UFC was Ronda Rousey.
In this article, we are going to talk to you about women's MMA before and after UFC, as well as look at three women who paved the way for other female fighters in the UFC.
Women in MMA (pre-2021)
The sport of MMA really became popular in America and Japan in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. During this time period, there were many smaller companies that allowed women to fight in their events.
These groups include International Fighting Championships (IFC), SuperBrawl, King of the Cage, Rage in the Cage, Ring of Combat, Bas Rutten Invitational, and HOOKnSHOOT.
The first recorded female-only competition in America took place in 1997 and was run by IFC. It was a Battle of the Bettys, Betty Levi versus Betty Fagan. The event was so successful that they launched another 4-night long tournament for female fighters.
Seeing the success of the IFC event, more promoters including Strikeforce, EliteXC, Bellator Fighting Championships, and Shark Fights invited female fighters to join their roster.
Strikeforce became the biggest supporter of female MMA fighters. Women were regularly included in fight nights and they even had their own championships and titles for the women to fight for.
UFC then purchased Strikeforce and female fighters were worried about the future of their sport, but Invicta was then launched. This was the first female-only fighting company.
2012 – Women Join the UFC
UFC day to day boss Dana White had made it very clear that he thought women had no place at UFC. He said there was nowhere near the depth of talent in the woman's field to justify signing female fighters.
However, after watching Ronda Rousey fight, White had a change of heart. He said that he watched Rousey fight with a ferocity that could rival any other man in the business. Dana White has made it very clear that without Rousey there would have been no female fighting in the UFC.
UFC signed Rousey in 2012 and she carried over the Women's Bantamweight title she had won at Strikeforce.
She had her first fight in 2013 against Liz Carmouche, who was the second woman signed by UFC.
At the end of 2013, UFC signed 11 more female fighters. Many of the women moved over from Invicta FC and other well-established fighting companies.
In UFC men fight for 5 minutes per round, whereas the women only fight for 3 minutes per round. There are fewer weight classes in the female side of the UFC and the weight boundaries for each class are different too.
Two Fighters That Changed the Game
When you are talking about how women's fighting's reputation has changed over the last decade, it is impossible not to talk about these two women. As they did so much for the sport.
Ronda Rousey was the first woman to be signed by UFC and Dana White credits her solely with changing his mind about women in MMA.
During her career, Rousey set many records, including title defended for the longest time (6 fights), and her record stands at 14-2.
Rousey now fights with the WWE and has just had her first child with her long term partner – fellow UFC fighter Travis Browne.
Amanda Nunes is currently the Women's Bantamweight champion AND the Women's Featherweight Champion – she has held both of those titles for over 1000 days each. She has held a title for over 3000 days in her career – that is a UFC record.
Nunes was also the first openly gay UFC fighter. Nunes and her wife have just had a baby girl.
Nunes took some time away from the UFC to spend time with her family, but she is expected to return at the end of this year. You can find the odds on Nunes' next fight and other 2 here.