Building Women's MMA Divisions in the UFC

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistJune 16, 2012

Building Women's MMA Divisions in the UFC

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    Women's MMA is growing, as showcased by the popularity of such fighters as Gina Carano, Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. As the sport grows on the women's side, the UFC is eventually going to need to take notice and include women in the company.

    There are a number of female fighters that could make up several weight classes in the UFC. Weight divisions with enough competition to get UFC exposure are the featherweight, bantamweight, flyweight and strawweight divisions.  

    Here are ten women in each weight division that could get the UFC started.

Featherweight

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    10 fighters to start with: Marloes Coenen, Hiroko Yamanaka, Elaina Maxwell, Milana Dudieva, Yana Kunitskaya, Romy Ruyssen, Gina Carano, Julia Budd, Cristiane Santos and Amanda Lucas

    The women's featherweight division has a number of solid fighters in it from a number of countries. The division is very international-oriented, which could attract even more attention from the foreign market.

    Coenen is Dutch, Santos is Brazilian, Dudieva and Kunitskaya are Russian, Ruyssen is French, Budd is Canadian and Yamanaka is Japanese. That kind of international flavor could make for a great featherweight tournament to crown the first ever UFC Women's Featherweight champion. 

    A handful of countries would have a fighter to root for, and fans would be treated to elite women's competition. 

    Furthermore, adding Amanda Lucas would garner further media attention, as she is the daughter of George Lucas. That kind of media can't be bad at all, which is beneficial to the UFC.

    Santos, Coenen, Carano and Yamanaka are all elite, so it could lead to an interesting struggle for the title. Add in under-the-radar fighters like Dudieva, Kunitskaya and Budd and the UFC has a great featherweight division.

Bantamweight

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    10 fighters to start with: Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Sarah Kaufman, Alexis Davis, Sarah McMann, Hitomi Akano, Liz Carmouche, Amanda Nunes, Julie Kedzie and Sarah D'Alelio  

    The women's bantamweight division may be the most popular, as it is home to fan favorites Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. Rousey is arguably the face of women's MMA right now, which could attract viewers to any card she is on.

    Kaufman and Davis have quietly built themselves up in Tate and Rousey's shadows, showing their legitimacy in the sport. Both are capable of winning any fight they are in.

    The bantamweight division is not as international as the featherweight division, but it would still be a great tournament. Kaufman and Davis represent Canada, Akano is Japanese and Nunes is Brazilian. 

    The bantamweight division is is capable of gaining attention to women's MMA under the watch of these 10 fine female athletes.

Flyweight

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    10 fighters to start with: Tara LaRosa, Rosi Sexton, Cat Zingano, Barb Honchak, Sheila Gaff, Takayo Hashi, Aisling Daly, Roxanne Modafferi, Carina Damm and Jessica Eye

    The division that probably needs the most exposure, the women's flyweight division is the least publicized with the most potential. There are a number of women's fighters in the division capable of becoming stars.

    Like the featherweight division, the flyweight division has a very international flavor that can garner great competition between countries. Sexton is English, Gaff is German, Hashi is Japanese, Daly is Irish and Damm is Brazilian.

    These type of tournaments for the title have a world cup feeling to them, which could make them attractive to viewers and marketable to the masses.

    LaRosa and Sexton would be the top names in the division, but I wouldn't be surprised to see more women stars in the making.  

Strawweight

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    10 fighters to start with: Zoila Gurgel, Jessica Aguilar, Megumi Fujii, Akaya Hamasaki, Katja Kankaanpaa, Seo Hee Ham, Carla Esparza, Yuka Tsuji, Felice Herrig and Michelle Waterson

    The women's strawweight division already has solid exposure, thanks to Bellator. Gurgel, Aguilar and Fujii are all certified stars that could be the foundation of this division.

    As seen in the tournaments I have already described, this tournament would also have great international presence. Fujii, Hamasaki and Tsuji are Japanese, Gurgel is of Brazilian descent, Kankaanpaa is Finnish and Ham is from South Korea. The tournament would again attract attention from the international market, as foreign fans could root for their respective country-women.

    Add the personality and exciting style of Herrig, the underratedness of Esparza and beauty and brawn of Waterson, and you have the potential for a great weight class for women's MMA. 

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