Over at Skill MMA, my compadre Shiroobi has inked a fascinating 2,500-word treatise on the history of women's MMA. The piece focuses mostly on the sport's origins in the Japanese pro wrestling scene -- as well as the evolution of fighters like Megumi Fujii, Hisae Watanabe, Miku Matsumoto -- but it also ties into the current state of professional female fighting in America.
Female MMA in Japan began when the promotion Ladies Legend Pro Wrestling (LLPW) started its "shoot fighting" Ultimate L-1 Challenge tournament in 1995. The first L-1 tourney was ruled by Svetlana Goundarenko, a Russian Olympic judoka who tipped the scales at 150kg (330 lbs.).
After a few shows, LLPW discontinued its experiment, but in that era, female pro wrestling orgs couldn’t ignore MMA. Therefore, Neo Women’s Pro Wrestling started an event named ReMix in 2000.
The first ReMix World Cup offered a huge bonus of $100,000 to the tournament winner. That type of money had never before been offered in female MMA, so many foreign fighters came to participate in the events, including current stars like Marloes Coenen and Erin Toughill.
L-1 ruler Goundarenko also took part in the tournament since, like men’s MMA, there were no weight classes in the early stages. One would think that the heavier fighter would have an advantage, but Goundarenko lost in the tournament semifinals to 60kg (132 lbs.) fighter Megumi Yabushita.
ReMix rules prohibited ground-and-pound, and featured a 20 second time limitation for ground fighting. Yabushita was able to avoid Goundarenko’s submission game with the turtle position, and Goundarenko’s stamina proved to be less than impressive, having competed in Olympic judo at 72kg (158 lbs.). So, Yabushita outstruck the Russian with low kicks, and then tried to take down the gassed Goundarenko. After this bout, female MMA began to favor small-but-athletic fighters over heavyweight fighters.
Check out the full article on Skill MMA.