There are a lot of MMA-related things that I’m looking forward to as the calendar turns to 2013. Because I really don’t have anything better to do with my time, I have been telling ya’ll about some of them. Today’s thing is the thing I am probably looking forward to most of all: women’s MMA in the UFC!
It was recently announced that UFC 157, taking place at the end of February, will be headlined by a UFC Women’s Bantamweight Title fight between champion Ronda Rousey and challenger Liz Carmouche. Rousey’s former Strikeforce title has been re-christened the UFC title in anticipation of the fight. Although the fight’s position on the card and buyrate potential have been analyzed and re-analyzed by nerds who like to pretend things like that matter, I am just excited to see the fight. Although Rousey is currently a heavy favorite, the pressure on her will be unlike anything faced by a debuting UFC fighter that isn’t named Brock Lesnar due to the expectations and increased “mainstream” attention. Carmouche, on the other hand, really has nothing to lose and has a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a name for herself on a huge stage. If nothing else, the fight is guaranteed to be exciting.
But the Rousey-Carmouche scrap isn’t where my WMMA anticipation stops. Dana White has at least claimed that the UFC is committed to the women’s bantamweight division, and this would presumably mean that a whole bunch of other women fighters are going to be signed by the UFC to expand the division. Hopefully this means the main Strikeforce holdovers will be brought over, including, among others, Miesha Tate (cupcakes!), Julie Kedzie, Cyborg Santos, and Sarah Kaufman. Additionally, it would be nice to see other WMMA bantamweight notables eventually make their way to the octagon like Sara McMann, Shayna Bazler, and Alexis Davis, for instance. Coincidentally, the latter two are fighting at Invicta in a couple of weeks in a bout that may be of increased importance in light of the UFC’s entrance into the WMMA-promoting business.
The strength of WMMA in the UFC will depend more on the promotion establishing a foundation in the division than on how many people buy UFC 157 on pay per view. Without a steady stream of challengers being developed and introduced, the experiment will be doomed to fail as soon as Rousey loses. If, instead, the division is built from the bottom, there will be a solid core of women to keep fans interested no matter who the champion is.
I have faith (even if it may be somewhat misguided) that the UFC will realize this and 2013 will be a year full of developing female fighters to establish a new and extremely competitive and fun division. Can’t wait!