The Case for Women in the UFC

Womens MMAYears ago, when the UFC was trying to get sanctioned across the country, Dana White decided that having women fight on his show would just create PR nightmares that he didn't need.  He may have been right.  It's easy to imagine legislators showing pictures of bloody girls in order to fight regulation efforts.  Now that the sport is regulated in almost every state, that concern is gone for the most part, but it made no sense until this week for the UFC to even consider a women's division.  All of the top and marketable talent was signed elsewhere, and there'd really be no point to starting a women's division that was inferior to the one over at EliteXC.

Over the course of two major CBS shows, Gina Carano established herself as an elite-level draw.  Her fights drew over a million new viewers each show, and she does incredible search numbers online.  Nobody in the UFC has drawn those kind of TV ratings all year besides Anderson Silva in July.  People are very interested in her.  Even better, she actually has exciting fights and has the talent to carry the pressure put on her.  With sagging TV ratings for live specials, featuring the women's division on Ultimate Fight Nights could be a boost.

Of course, that brings us to the long-discussed topic of a women's season of The Ultimate Fighter.  People behind the show have reportedly pushed Dana for this for a long time, but he has resisted.  People at Spike think it would do huge ratings, and it's hard to argue with them.  House full of women, alcohol, and fighting to break down a barrier to get into the UFC will be a recipe for a lot of interest.  One of the great things about the original TUF was the emotional aspect of the show.  These fighters were really looking for their break.  Giving women a chance to make it to the UFC would bring that back.  

Further, it is not as if there is no room for them.  Looking at the next three UFC shows, there's really no way to argue that there is no room for a women's fight on the show.  It's not as if Gray Maynard vs. Rich Clementi desparately needs to be on PPV saturday.  The truth is that the UFC has one or two slow fights on almost every card, and the women rarely disappoint.  It may be a change of pace that adds to the show.

I don't think weight class objections are really an issue.  They only need one weight class.  If they made it 145, women above and below would find a way to make it to that weight to fight in the UFC, or they'd fight a few pounds below to be there.  Either way, it's not like the UFC has an obligation to do multiple divisions if they have women in their organization.

One option that has been discussed is creating a women's division in the WEC.  They could actually run PPV shows if they had Gina Carano and Urijah Faber on top, whereas right now PPV is a nonstarter.  

Creating a women's division would create a great benefit for fans, fighters, and Zuffa. Women's MMA is really the only opening out there to compete with Zuffa on, and they could close that opening very easily.

The UFC ought to host Gina Carano vs. Cristiane Santos next year, maybe for free on Spike, or under GSP and Penn in January.  It would be a good test of the drawing power of women in the UFC.  My guess is it would do fantastic numbers.

Finally, it's very easy to focus on Gina and ignore the rest of the women.  Tara LaRosa is stuck in purgatory, signed to a company that has no funding and no future.  There are a number of other female fighters that can become names fans pay to see, and there's no reason to resist giving them a chance to win fans over.  Gina may be the only female draw at the moment, but there's no reason to think others cannot emerge.  Don't even try to tell me Michelle Waterson isn't marketable.  

Dana White is known for sticking to his guns, but he's been willing to bend in the past when it's good for business.  He brought back Tito Ortiz even when he hated him, and brought back BJ Penn after Penn sued him.  Dana should channel that spirit and change his position on women in the UFC.

 

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