There have always been women in mixed martial arts, but for many years, most MMA organizations did not sanction fights between female athletes. It took Dana White and the UFC 20 years to sanction a women’s MMA bout, and if you do a search for women in MMA, you’ll see the focus is still mainly on how the fighters look rather than on their skills and ability. Recently, female MMA fighters have made some important strides and have proven that they are as fierce as the men.
Obviously, the first UFC women’s bout grabbed a lot of attention, and this fight, which featured Ronda Rousey versus Liz Carmouche, was the main event of the evening. Rousey went on to defeat Meisha Tate at UFC 168, and although this fight was still on the main card, it was a bit overshadowed by the fight between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva.
The formation of Invicta Fighting Championships also has been an important milestone for women in MMA. This organization, unlike most other MMA organizations, offers five different divisions. Most organizations only feature one or two divisions for women. Invicta has gotten off to a bit of a shaky start with some management problems and the lost of the top run of its strawweight division to the UFC, but hopefully, this organization will be here for many more years, offering a variety of options for fighters and encouraging young women to think about MMA.
Another key moment for women in the sport was the selection of Meisha Tate and Ronda Rousey as the coaches for The Ultimate Fighter. This was the first time that women served as the coaches on this popular reality TV show. The drama between Tate and Rousey was entertaining to watch, but both proved to be excellent team leaders, and say whatever you want about Rousey, she has definitely increased interest in women’s MMA.
Of course, it’s not just within the world of mixed martial arts that the women are gaining more respect. Many single martial arts have some excellent fighters, including Muay Thai. Tiffany Van Soest, for example, is considered one of the best kickboxers in the country, and her bout with Caley Reece is a headlining event for Lion Fight, one of the United States’ top Muay Thai kickboxing organizations.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also has its fair share of exceptional female athletes competing for various titles. Leticia Ribeiro, for example, has won more than one dozen jiu-jitsu championships. As a light featherweight, Ribeiro has won the World Brazilian Jiu-Jistu Championship for her division for the last four years.