If you are a fan of MMA, you are probably aware of the famous female fighters. But the situation wasn’t all that great at first. We need to take a look at the history of MMA and the important changes that were incorporated since the octagon ring started becoming so popular in order to get a clearer picture of all the steps women had to take in their fight for equality in the business.
The MMA Fighting Industry
When we talk about MMA, we refer to mixed martial arts. It is a combat sport based on different techniques and skills. Unlike boxing, kickboxing, and other similar sports, MMA tends to be more brutal. There are still rules that MMA fighters need to follow, but the sport is significantly more dangerous compared to others.
MMA has existed in some form for centuries. There are examples of similar cage fighting sports in ancient China and ancient Greece, but mixed martial arts became rather popular in the west in the sixties and seventies. Now, UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship, a company from the U.S. founded in 1993, is the leader in the industry.
Since the entire idea behind mixed martial arts and similar sports is quite brutal, people would assume that there wouldn’t be many female fighters. But the truth is the opposite. Women have been a part of these sports since 1997. At least that’s when the first official competition featuring women was held.
Over the years, the popularity of the sport grew, and there are numerous competitions across the globe today that invite women. While the interest in women’s MMA is not as big, many people credit Ronda Rousey for the reason women are competing in similar sports.
Women Dominate MMA Too
The popularity of women’s MMA competitions wasn’t as high as today when the sport was introduced in the nineties. As more and more women started competing, the popularity increased. And it seems quite strange. MMA is mostly about physical strength, and other women’s sports don’t get nearly as much attention as mixed martial arts.
We have a sport based on physical strength, and yet, the popularity seems to be only growing. Probably the only other sport that can compete with MMA when it comes to popularity is tennis.
Today, everyone has heard of Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, and Gina Carano. Each of these matches is able to break records and just keeps increasing the interest for women’s competitions. Of course, one could say that they are not as popular as male fights, especially high-profile ones featuring the likes of Conor McGregor, but that’s beside the point. The most important thing is that MMA took a step in the right direction and that so many people are interested in watching it.
There’s Only a Few of Them
What seems strange in this entire story is that there aren’t many popular female MMA fighters. We already mentioned a few women MMA fighters before. Despite the domination in this sport, not many women are willing to join the competition. Today, we have Holly Holm, Miesha Tate, Amanda Nunes, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, Zhang Weili, and several others. Let’s not forget Gina Carano who left MMA and started exploring an acting career a couple of years back, which only lowered the number of MMA women.
Now, we aren’t saying that there aren’t incredible female fighters out there. And with the popularity of MMA, the numbers are increasing. But at the same time, the total number is nowhere near male competition, and how many male fighters are out there. Of course, this isn’t a career that many girls would want. It is dangerous, it requires a lot of work and dedication, and the majority of women would rather not go in a fight with someone else.
Men Find Them Appealing Too
The entire idea behind mixed martial arts and watching people fight is entertainment. And these types of fights have been around for centuries. Almost every culture in history had a version of it, and there are numerous fighting competitions across the globe. If you take a look at the Olympics, there are several categories revolving around fighting.
It is no secret that men developed MMA and made it what it is today. But when women joined, men still liked the idea behind it. They enjoy watching women fight. It can be appealing. In fact, the majority of viewers of MMA fights are men, regardless of whether it is a men’s or women’s match. According to recent statistics, over fifty percent of men are interested in watching UFC, while only twenty percent of women consider themselves fans.
Women MMA Fighters Face Exploitation Too
No one is safe from exploitation, and it affects women in MMA as well. One of the most obvious examples of inequality was when Dana White said that UFC will never include female fighters. And that is just a ridiculous thing to say. Especially after we know that Ronda Rousey joined the company six months later. While it was a little experiment, it proved to be more than successful.
And it goes as far that Rousey was the highest-paid UFC fighter! And yes, this includes both men and women. But the main problem is that Rousey is the only example. Other female fighters can’t brag about earning as much money as their male colleagues.
In addition, a fighter also needs to pay for their own equipment, training, coaches, health care, coaching, recovery, and everything else. As a result, many fighters are actually fighting to make the ends meet. Unless you are the number one in the world, the entire story about UFC might seem like a huge problem.
MMA Women Fighters Are Sending a Message
No one could have guessed what impact Rousey would have when she joined the UFC. And whether you are a fan or not, there is no denying that she paved the way for future female fighters. And that is an achievement on its own. Sending a message is one of the most important things these fighters do.
They show that women can be a part of something like MMA and that they can be as successful as their male co-worker — or supersede them. Of course, the situation needs to improve even further, but taking steps in the right direction is always a good thing to see. For some, female MMA fighters are just another form of entertainment. For others, they represent a message of hope and equality for everyone across the globe.