2014 will be a momentous year for female MMA fighters, writes Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird.
In 2014 we will see many firsts for the female athletes of MMA. With the UFC’s recent announcement of a 115 pound women’s division there is a fresh excitement in fans and fighters alike as the straw weights are finally given the opportunities and recognition they deserve.
It would appear that Dana White, president of the UFC, has realised the enormous potential the straw weights have. Not only has he signed eleven females to fight in the division, but he has also announced that they will double as the cast of The Ultimate Fighter’s 20th season. The all-female cast will not be the only first for the series however, as the victor will also be crowned the UFC straw weight champion.
The eleven fighters whose contracts are currently confirmed are Carla Esparza, Felice Herrig, Emily Kagan, Rose Namajunas, Tecia Torres, Paige VanZant, Claudia Gadelha, Juliana Lima, Alex Chambers, Bec Hyatt and Joanne Calderwood. Previously signed with the all-female promotion, Invicta F.C., these women are sure to bring a new energy to the UFC cage. If the success of Ronda Rousey is anything to go by, they certainly have bright futures ahead of them.
For the women’s MMA community this is a time of huge significance. It is not just the fact that women are finally making it into the big leagues, it is the manner in which they are doing so. For someone who doesn’t follow WMMA perhaps the importance of these announcements may not be clear but for all girls aspiring to be champions in combat sports it is immense. Now they have a reality to train for and not just a dream. It is one equal to that of their male training partners. This is only the beginning for women in the cage and as a new generation of girls see these new opportunities before them these categories can only grow and develop.
This writer cannot wait to see what 2014 brings.
Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Pundit Arena