Ronda Rousey – Advancing WMMA Into Uncharted Territory
As many of you may know, the standing Strikeforce Women's Bantamweight Champion, Ronda Rousey, has now taken the reigns in what used to be a very segregated sport, and has turned the WMMA community in a new direction, entering under contract with the UFC.
Dana White, president of the UFC, has long been the muscle opposing women in UFC, and MMA in general. White has made comments in the past about the marketability of WMMA, and has stated that too few women fight at the level needed to create a competitive and deep enough division. Although White has never actively investigated how many women train to fight, his sentiment was easily picked up on, as the idea of seeing two women battle it out in a cage seemed easy for many to dismiss as inappropriate.
In 2008, Matt Hughes stated that if it came to a vote he'd vote no on women in the UFC. His opinion was based on the fact that he didn't prefer to see "two women hit each other." In the same sentence he acknowledged that he didn't pay attention to WMMA, or even current events in the UFC -- the machine that created his successful career as a man who hit other men in a cage, and the spotlight for him to speak on the subject in the first place.
"In my heart I have, you know, it's the way I grew up maybe, the mentality is different, I'm old school. I have a hard time watching girls fighting; it's hard for me. I never really watched a woman fight, but I know they are pretty good."
Sound familiar? Well this wasn't the country boy Hughes, and it wasn't 2008. This quote came from Georges St-Pierre not too many days ago. I enjoyed Miesha Tate's take on his comments despite the fact that I am a fan of Pierre's.
"I think the problem with GSP's view about WMMA is that he doesn't have one. If he hasn't ever watched us women fight then he can't say how he really feels about it because he's ignorant.
Being old fashioned is fine, but us "modern day" girls aren't asking for your protection, we are asking for your acceptance and we are fighting for equality.
If everyone felt about MMA as GSP thinks he feels about WMMA, then he wouldn't have a job - Miesha Tate
Now, about this idea of "two women hitting each other" and people not wanting to watch "that kind of thing." Firstly, I'd like to state for the record.. this isn't a back alley brawl. These women train just as the men do, several hours a day and in multiple disciplines, in order to be able to effectively stand with and out-strike their opponent, or take the fight to the ground and submit their opponent.
Secondly, it is a very common opinion that most cards featuring women do substantially better in terms of entertainment value than ones with men only.The women own the excitement of the show because the pressure for them to perform well is tremendous. They come out to fight knowing they have to prove they have what it takes to be a professional fighter, in front of an audience made up of several mentalities.
Granted, the mcsexyness value section of viewers is the first one women are aware of, men who'd like nothing more than to watch articles of clothing being ripped off of two girls in a sanctioned cat fight is still a prevalent attitude among those I prefer to call "cavemen." But there is also an audience of men and women who are watching these fights because they are true fans of the sport. While the gender of the opponents isn't an issue, bringing two non-technical, no-talent, unable, clumsy and sometimes startled looking "fighters" together into a ring makes the sport just.. look bad.
Women entering the cage are scared to death of being cast in this light, so to avoid the issue all together they enter the ring intending to rip the head off their opponent, and then eat her guts to prove the point. This is a notable difference between a lot of men's fights verses women's. Men have been in the sport long enough that sometimes they get comfortable and want to play it safe in the ring. This can lead to a very boring episode of "how many ways can I avoid risking a loss."
I'd also like to point out the year we live in -- it's 2012 people. Now, if this was ohh say the early 1800's, when women were considered inferior to men (along with freedman and slaves), and confined to their more "appropriate" gender based circles, which most certainly wasn't politics, or voting for the leader of the nation, then I could understand this attitude a little more. Unfortunately, the right for women to vote, which passed almost 100 years ago, hasn't necessarily eradicated all of the hard wired gender based perceptions, as recently seen in comments made by Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin.. I digress...
Being female, and a practitioner of the sport myself, I have seen up close and in person how fast women are learning to shed the baggage of these superficial roles. In fact, I have seen attitudes about these perceived gender roles change in places I would never have expected to see them.
Because of recent events like Dana White's random and sudden epiphany (or school boy crush on Rousey), I feel like I've entered into some sort of short term schizophrenia - one day feeling elated about the new prospects for women in the sport, and the next day feeling annoyed to the point of death by the fact that Rousey didn't have the same inclination I would have of flipping White off when he asked her to sign with UFC.
I mean, has anything new developed to cause such an extreme change of heart in White? Well, no, not for WMMA. Despite the many negative attitudes WMMA has had to deal with, women have steadily been working together, forming pockets of support, financing and networking, pulling strings and discussing how to further their efforts. These women have put in the time, knowing that eventually this effort would lead to a very proud moment when WMMA would have strong roots that would not easily be removed or blunted by the off-hand remarks of a few ignorant people. In fact, I would say this hardship has created some of the most fierce spirits among women in the sport today. Women like Miesha Tate, who in her fight against Ronda Rousey, continued fighting after Rousey dislocated and nearly broke Tate's arm.
As Dana White arrogantly claims current interest in WMMA, which he prefaces with the fact that it could be very short lived if women don't perform to his expectations (gag), I find myself grinning ear to ear in understanding, as he recants and develops a new interest.
“We’re bringing in the 135-pound division,” White said. “I’m trying this whole women’s thing out. Obviously, Ronda is the champ. I think Ronda has the potential to be a big star. She’s already getting media that we’ve never even gotten before, and she’s never even set foot in the UFC yet. That’s the division that we’re bringing in. We’re bringing in the 135-pound division.”
You can't knock him for being a timely businessman, that he is. And how can he go wrong, he's making it clear women will only be allowed a place with the men in the UFC as long as they are a benefit to him and it. After watching WMMA struggle for many years to create talent in an area that women were way under paid in and had to work with way fewer resources, they have reached a pivotal point where they have created amazing talent and a foundation that will grow steadily. Now he reaches in and grabs one of the top prizes off the shelf and nobody else is pissy about this??
Ok. I'll get off my high horse.
Regardless of my frustration with the history of negative attitudes, this is definitely a win for WMMA. I am very proud to be able to watch Rousey close a gap that was long over due, and excited to watch how far women will go in the sport fueled by this new momentum.
Cheers to Rousey!! Folding up the walls that once blocked women from advancing a great opportunity like a picnic table!
Watch this highlights video of women in MMA from all around the world