In a sport targeted at 18-34 year old males, women have had to fight an uphill battle to gain acceptance among the target audience. While the culture of MMA typically welcomes women into the gym to train and prepare, the viewership seldom fully respects or understands the struggle that is women in MMA.
The typical casual fans of MMA could not care less about the struggle of women in the sport. They are perfectly content considering a woman's place in the sport to be a brief stroll around the cage with a card to announce what round it is.He
While the success of the most respectable of cage girls is an art in itself, they simply represent only one angle of a niche women can find in MMA. The other is obviously in going to war as a competitor.
This is where the mistake is commonly made of overlooking, or worst yet, discrediting these women who work so hard to cut their own path in a sport which still struggles to gain its own acceptance in many cases.
One of the conundrums of women competing in MMA is that many still view them simply as objects regardless of their efforts in the gym and in the cage. If you ask 10 MMA fans who the face of women's MMA is, at least six of them will tell you Gina Carano. Two more will say Arianny Celeste.
The tragedy here is that as amazing of a competitor as Carano is the gal has not fought in competition in over two years. Over that time, the true face of women's MMA has fought and won three times. Yet another tragedy occurred this week within the women's realm when that face, Cris “Cyborg” Santos, tested positive for anabolic steroids.
So here the women's fight community, at least at the mainstream level, has scraped rock bottom. Their most recognizable figure, Carano, is a gorgeous bombshell who is more notable over her looks more so than her reputation inside the cage as of late.
Then to make matters worse, the girl who could not overtake Carano as the face of women in the sport, “Cyborg”, can only become considered the face when an error in judgment on her part is exposed as a negative carcass of a topic for the vultures in mainstream media to pick clean for their own benefit.
The same culture which refused to put “Cyborg” on a pedestal, which up until this week she more than deserved, has burned her at the stake and predicted the fall of women in the sport of MMA because of her misdeeds.
We are quite the community of hypocrites and fence jumpers, are we not, MMA media?
Is it responsible of us to pin the future of women's MMA on a woman who has not competed in two years and is more recognizable as a sex symbol now a days than a fighter? Is it truly responsible to overlook “Cyborg” for all her accomplishments in favor of Gina as the face of the community then to only pin the future of the genre on her mistakes?
The answer is absolutely not. The real answer is it is downright despicable of us to paint that picture on so many levels that it truly reflects our ignorance towards that which we should be praising and promoting on many more levels than two women can influence.
While their influence will be cited throughout MMA history as two pioneers of women in this game, their influence alone simply does not reflect nor dictate the true power that women have in this sport.
Again, all the casual Johnny come lately fans may agree that Gina Carano and her Haywire movie represent the finest that females in this sport have to offer but they are a sad Tapout branded bunch who quite honestly couldn't find the true culture of MMA with Google Maps and navigation.
The more hardcore fans may blast “Cyborg” for his indiscretions and call for her head on a stake as they chant women's MMA is finished. While they may celebrate the sport in a more refined light they too really have no clue about the women driving their brand into the future.
These two amazing women deserve all the credit they get, and in certain cases they have earned the criticism they endure as well. But they are simply the tip of a spear, the break of a wave; they are the scratch at the surface of what lies beneath.
Some names you will never hear in common MMA discussion include Shasta Mcmurray, Cortney Casey, Brenna Larkin, the Lybarger twins, Michelle Gutierrez, and Kyra Batara. These women are what drive the culture of females in this sport.
They are killing it in their respective local scenes and represent the future of the sport. It will not be their looks or their mistakes which will take them into the future, like all mixed martial artists, it will be their heart, dedication, and performances.
They follow the lead of the stars and search to walk a similar path but they are the result of the success of prior champions at the mainstream level. Yet as has been such since the beginning of mixed martial arts, the evolution of this thing dictates that what once was superior, or considered as such, will fall prey to the future.
Kyra Batara is that future. This teenage phenom has cut her teeth with the likes of Eddie Bravo, Meisha Tate, and the crew at Blackhouse MMA. She sharpens her razor's edge in the Pacific northwest chasing young men off the mats at wrestling meets and besting fields of 200+ competitors in wrestling tournaments.
She trains, takesdown and submits all that stand in her path and is being brought up in a positive reinforced environment. An environment absent of the idea that her figure and looks will become the catalyst for her success, absent of the idea that she is not good enough and that she must seek advantages outside the realm of hard work and dedication for her to succeed.
This young woman is the George St. Pierre to Royce Gracie of women's MMA. Where “Cyborg” and her accolades will set the tone for future expectations of greatness, regardless of her mistakes, Kyra will reflect the perfection and refinement of those expectations tomorrow.
To enjoy a gaze when taking in Meisha Tate or Gina Carano is simply human nature. And very few can deny the beauty that is radiating from these amazing athletes. But to box them in and credit them more so for what we see in appearance than to praise them for their abilities and performances is short sighted and irresponsible.
To hold an amazing competitor like Santos accountable for her actions is nothing short of exactly what we should do when considering role models and world class athletes. But to disregard her one minute because she is not the most appealing on the eyes only to condemn the rest of the women in MMA for her actions is also short sighted and irresponsible.
It's time we as a community get with the program when it comes to women in this sport. Show them the respect they deserve, and recognize that the community offers far more than a few good looks and one glaring mistake.
There are plenty of females out their sweating, bleeding, working, and fighting to demand our respect. If you have the slightest clue what I am talking about here you know that not only do they demand our respect that more often than not they command it.
If you can't get with that perhaps you and your opinions are not educated enough to share as a respected source in this fight community. Because there are plenty of women absolutely chomping at the bit to prove it to you, all you need to do is open your eyes and show a little respect.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad MMA. Follow us on Twitter @HurtsBad.