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13th Nov 2015

Two Irish veterans of women’s MMA play down the significance of UFC 193

Ais the Bash and the Alpha Female

Darragh Murphy

It’s a man’s fighter’s world.

For the first time ever, a UFC card will be headlined by a pair of women’s title fights when the octagon arrives in Melbourne, Australia for UFC 193.

In just a couple of short years, we’ve gone from Dana White claiming that we would “never” see women competing in the octagon to having the biggest UFC attendance of all time for a card without a man to be seen in either the co-main or main event.

MMA on a global scale has never been bigger and champions like Ronda Rousey and Joanna Jedrzejczyk have brought women’s involvement in the sport to the mainstream.


But before either fighter had made their debut, there were women plugging away in dingy sports halls, fighting for next to no money just for the love of the sport and to make ends (barely) meet.

Two such veterans are Irishwomen and both Aisling Daly and Catherine Costigan have been around the sport since before Ronda, before Jedrzejczyk, before Invicta.

We got the chance to speak to both Daly and Costigan in the run-up to UFC 193 and asked them about the significance of the event to the landscape of women’s MMA.

“To be honest, I don’t think UFC 193 is as significant to women’s MMA as many people are making out,” Daly explained.

“Having Ronda headline a card isn’t special. She’s been doing it for years now and a lot of the strawweight title fights in the past have been on Fight Pass. The whole ‘women taking over’ storyline is a nice angle to take but Saturday night is all about Ronda.

“I’m delighted that women are being given the chance to perform in the main and co-main event but, to be fair, if it wasn’t for Rousey then Joanna wouldn’t be in the co-main.

“If the card was headlined by a male title fight then I don’t think Jedrzejczyk vs. Letourneau would have made it to the pay-per-view.”

Aisling Daly 24/10/2015

“Don’t get me wrong, UFC 193 is huge,” Costigan said. “To have two female fighters in the main and co-main, that’s massive, but I don’t think this is the most important night for women’s MMA like many are touting it as.

“The most important night was when Ronda Rousey debuted in the UFC because it was such a risk for the promotion. It could have gone well and it could have gone terribly but look at where they are now.

“Invicta was also a significant movement in giving girls the opportunity to showcase their skills on a stage away from the men.

“It gave us the chance to stand alone and now it’s a massively popular promotion and producing the vast majority of women fighters that you’d be familiar with nowadays.”

UFC Fight Night

There is the danger, with Rousey being such a superstar and Jedrzejczyk being a more recently crowned champion, that the Polish strawweight may be overshadowed by her bantamweight counterpart and that’s something on which Costigan and Daly disagree.

“I don’t think Joanna will actually be outshone on the night,” Costigan said. “She’s got a huge following and the way she interacts with her fans is really smart.

“She needs to be given time the same way that Ronda was given time but, in terms of skill, Joanna’s right up there. Her striking is extremely high-level and she’s going to cause a problem for anyone at 115 lbs.”


“Joanna definitely has been and will be overshadowed by Ronda,” Daly contended. “And she should be.

“Ronda is holding that show together and Joanna owes her place as co-headliner to Rousey. Ronda is the star of this show, there’s no doubt about it.”

Both fighters are quick to point out that several parties have played their roles in getting women’s MMA to the place it is in 2015 and that it’s not all down to the Dana White/Ronda Rousey tag-team.

“In the UFC, of course Ronda has done so much for us,” Daly said. “But outside the UFC there are so many other people who have worked to get us where women in MMA are today.

“Invicta was around before Ronda and Cage Warriors was putting women’s fights on before Ronda. And people like Megumi Fujii, Shannon Knapp and, even myself, I’d be considered a veteran of the sport.

“Ronda is doing a lot now and deserves all the credit for that. There are a lot of marketing things that benefit her, obviously the Olympian element was huge. If she wasn’t an Olympian then I don’t think we’d be having this conversation. The medal was the big selling point when she started.”

US Olympic Team Trials Judo

Costigan agrees that we must pay tribute to the founding mothers of MMA and not just see Rousey as the starting point.

“Some fans are still new to the sport and only know about the Rouseys,” she said. “Even this week, I did an article on Rosi Sexton and I think it is important to keep fighters’ legacies in peoples’ memories. We’re enriching the history.

“We mustn’t forget the people who paved the way. Shannon Knapp and Invicta have done so much and the UFC essentially took the whole 115 lb division from that promotion.”


So neither fighter sees UFC 193 as a landmark event for women’s MMA but do they foresee an upset, with the champions being heavily backed to win on the night?

“Definitely not,” Daly said. “Holly hasn’t had much time to develop as a fighter. She doesn’t have the skills to beat Ronda. At 34, it’s hard to develop.

“It’s the same with Valerie. She’s something of an older woman and while her strength is her kickboxing, Joanna’s better in that department. Valerie is tough so I’d predict a decision victory for Joanna but it could well be a TKO finish for the champion.”

“I don’t see any upsets,” Costigan admitted. “Going on track record, I’ve not seen Holly knock anyone out in the UFC. The UFC is different level and, as good as her rangework is, Ronda’s a different animal when she gets a hold of you.

“Joanna has looked amazing in her last two fights and I think the confidence of being champion will help her to get past Valerie in the co-main.”

UFC returns to Europe on February 27tth 2016 with UFC Fight Night London. Tickets on general sale on Friday, December 4th via