5 Most Important Moments in Women's MMA
Over the past five years, women's mixed martial arts has gone from relative obscurity to heights many could not have imagined in such a short time span.
Gina Carano's mix of beauty and skill moved women's MMA out of the undercard of some events and put the ladies in the spotlight. Now, it is not uncommon to see a card headlined by top females. Oh, and now there is a viable all-women's MMA promotion in Invicta FC.
A lot of progress has been made in a short period of time, but there is still a long way to go for the women's side of the sport.
On the eve of Ronda Rousey vs. Sarah Kaufman, here is a look at the five most important moments for women's MMA.
Bellator Adds Women's Tournaments
Many may skip over Bellator's inclusion of women as an important event for women's MMA, but it should not be ignored.
Prior to Bellator stepping up to the plate, the casual fan only knew of Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg. When Bellator made the decision to add a women's tournament, suddenly the scope of women's MMA got a lot bigger with other weight divisions and talented fighters.
The first tournament was the 115-pound division featuring Megumi Fujii, Zoila Frausto (Gurgel), Lisa Ward, Jessica Aguilar and many other top women in the division.
Bellator showcasing these women on cable television showed that the sport was not limited to Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg.
They opened the door to the top fighters in the smaller weight divisions and broadened the scope of women's MMA.
Ronda Rousey Wins the Title
This moment will only become more and more important as she continues to win and move closer to becoming the first woman to grace the UFC's Octagon.
No offense is meant to Sarah Kaufman, Marloes Coenen or Miesha Tate; they are all highly skilled fighters who are a joy to watch compete, but Rousey has the "it factor."
Rousey sold the fight against Tate and made it a can't-miss event. After winning, her complete package has made her a true star of the sport. Rousey has appeared at numerous events, getting massive applause from crowds, and was featured on the cover of ESPN's body issue and in other media outlets.
Without Rousey as the poster-child for women's MMA, it is likely it would still be under the radar. She put it back in the forefront. Rousey is a star, and she is exactly what the sport needed.
If she continues to win and becomes invaluable, it is likely she could force the UFC to add the bantamweight women's division. That will make the moment she won the title one of the most important events in WMMA history.
Gina Carano vs. Cris Cyborg
Carano vs. Cyborg was the first big women's MMA fight. It marked the very first time a major MMA card was headlined by a women's fight.
Cyborg brought the brawn in the cage with her, and Carano had a strong following because of her charisma and looks. Combined, it made it an intriguing battle and an easy fight to sell.
The fight itself was a one-sided affair. Cyborg brutalized Carano for nearly a full round before the referee stopped the action at four minutes, 59 seconds. Cyborg picked up the 145-pound belt, and fans have not seen Carano in the cage since.
The result itself is secondary. They showed that a women's bout could headline a major card and draw interest. It was a big step in the right direction.
Invicta FC is an important step for women's MMA.
The much-talked-about all-women's promotion has given the ladies a place to call home.
Invicta's biggest contribution will be giving the women a place to fight on a consistent basis in their own weight division. Previously, these talented athletes would have to move up and down weight classes just to find a fight. Invicta takes that out of the equation.
That will only help add depth to each division that they offer and make women's MMA talent grow.
Some may not believe Invicta president Shannon Knapp when she said the first card reached 233,500 views, but with all of the coverage surrounding the promotion, it can be seen as nothing less than a success.
As Invicta continues to carve out their niche in the sport, it is obvious that this was a landmark event for the women of MMA.
Elite XC: Primetime
EliteXC: Primetime was the first mixed martial arts card to be broadcast on national network television.
Gina Carano was already beginning to make waves throughout the sport, and the fight against Kaitlin Young captured the interest of casual fans tuning in that night.
The exciting fight showed the nation that women can fight. Suddenly, men sitting in sports bars were captivated by the fist-flying action that the women brought in the cage. The catcalls stopped and a genuine interest began.
Carano and Young delivered. It showed there was a lot of interest to see the women fight and that they could carry a card.
The interest the fight drew set the stage for all that followed.