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11th Nov 2015

OPINION: Two of the best champions in the business are in action at UFC 193 and the fact they are women is utterly irrelevant

Landmark event

Darragh Murphy

Never before has a UFC card been headlined by two women’s title fights.

Previously championship fights in both of the UFC’s women’s divisions have been somewhat spruced up by male bouts preceding or following them, with the obvious exception of UFC 184 when Holly Holm was given her promotional debut in the co-headliner of Rousey v Zingano… but that wasn’t for a title.

This, very much, is a first.


An event at which the two best female fighters in the world can stand alone, as Ronda Rousey and Joanna Jędrzejczyk aim to defend their titles against Holm and Valerie Letourneau respectively.

There’s no Chris Weidman v Anderson Silva to draw in viewers. No lightweight clash between Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos to supplement the lack of interest in the strawweight division.

There is no need, simply because these two champions are world class. Not world class “for women”, simply world class.

Essentially, there are two main areas of mixed martial arts – striking and grappling. And I would argue that the best pound-for-pound striker in MMA is Jędrzejczyk with the best grappler being Rousey.

Certain fight fans would say that a bang-average male 115lber would tear Jędrzejczyk apart and that Rousey’s Judo would be nullified by a male bantamweight with any wrestling experience.

But that’s not the fucking point!

UFC Fight Night

There are other variables that need to be taken into consideration – bone density, hand size, shoulder frame are all massively different between men and women so it’s absolutely insane to talk about female fighters in that context.

It would be the same as saying “if Jon Jones weighed 125 lbs, he would destroy Demetrious Johnson”.

This is the time for Rousey and Jędrzejczyk to prove that women can more than hold their own with their male gold-wearing counterparts.

Simply due to the fact that it’s a first, UFC 193 is going to go down in history as one of the turning points of women’s MMA.

Hell, only three years ago Dana White responded with “never” when asked when we could expect to see women in the octagon.

Fast forward three years and his biggest money-maker is bantamweight champion Rousey.

In the run-up to Saturday night, you’re going to see an awful lot of “this is the chance for women’s MMA to start competing with men’s MMA”.

And I believe that’s wrong.

There should be no “W” prefixing MMA. No unnecessary caveats such as, “for a woman, she’s good”.

We shouldn’t be judging fighters based on their gender any more than we should be comparing a flyweight to a heavyweight.

UFC 184: Rousey v Zingano

MMA is not like football, tennis, golf or every other sport in which men and female are kept very separate – “they have this (lesser) division and we have this one”.

There is no “pound-for-pound” in non-combat sports.

You wouldn’t say that “pound-for-pound Hope Solo is better at dealing with crosses than Manuel Neuer”.

That’s why belts are handed out in the vast majority of martial arts – a colour grading to represent how well you’ve mastered your craft. An 18-stone grown man can hold the very same blue belt in Taekwondo as a 16-year-old girl.

UFC 190: Rousey v Correia

When Rousey burst onto the world stage in 2013, female fighters were almost seen as ring card girls who were giving MMA a go.

Even now, very few casual fans are aware of veterans like Megumi Fujii, Shayna Baszler and Julie Kedzie and, to be brutally honest, male spectators were more excited at the potential for a nip-slip than a slick submission in 2013.

Luckily, with MMA being such a young sport, two years can make a vast difference in the mindsets of fans and now female fighters are being lauded much more for their talents than their beauty.

UFC 185: Pettis vs Dos Anjos

Women dominating in MMA is not a new thing and we shouldn’t be putting UFC 193 up on a pedestal as the night when female fighters started to break through to the mainstream.

Whisper it but Rousey is undefeated in 12 bouts, Jędrzejczyk in 10, but these two elite-level athletes are merely the title holders in their respective divisions.

Veterans like Aisling Daly, Alexis Davis and Sarah Kaufman have laid out the red carpet and now it’s just a case of the two best in the world, at this moment in time, to walk down it and cement themselves as just that.

There are two title fights on Saturday night. You should watch them.