Loretta Hunt responds to a reader email asking about "the talent gap that exists between female and male MMA fighters" by asking her sometimes training partner K.J. Noons to speculate:
"I believe (male vs. female fights) wouldn't be that competitive, but every now and then there is a special athletic woman that can compete with men in fighting," said Noons. "I believe Cris is one of them. Can she be competitive if she fought in the WEC? Yes, she could. Would she be champ? If I knew the answer to that, I'd be a billionaire and I wouldn't be fighting."
Noons said he's caught Santos getting the better of more than a few training partners during sparring and grappling drills around the gym.
"When I see her fight other guys, she's usually beating them up or manhandling them," he said. "When I spar with her, we're just working; I'm giving her work. When she goes full speed on me, she definitely has the power of a man. She throws like a 145-pound man."
Her trainer Eric Del Fierro thinks she would be competitive in the WEC, but not against the top guys in the division:
"She could go in there and do well against some of those guys, but there's still a big difference between men and women and the dynamics of their own strength levels and agility. She doesn't have the foundation of wrestling that some of the guys have in that division. There's no way you could throw her against Urijah Faber or Jose Aldo and expect her to do great."
It's an interesting theoretical question, but certainly not one I would ever want to find out the answer to and for the record neither do Noons or Del Fierro.
I can barely stand to see women punching each other in the face, I certainly wouldn't want to see a man hitting a woman in a prize fight. But it is a testament to Cyborg's abilities that the biggest competitive question about her right now is not what woman might beat her, but whether or not she could hang with the men in her weight class.
Steve Cofield comments:
The best thing women's fighting can do is to show a little patience as the sport catches up to Cyborg. It would also be nice for the promotion to stop recycling the same fighters and take part in actually cultivating some new prospects and future stars.
UPDATE: Just wanted to clarify that despite my emotional reaction of being queasy when I see women getting punched, I support women's MMA 100%. I've enjoyed several women's MMA fights -- just not many on major shows -- and whole-heartedly endorse and encourage the right of individual women to express, explore, compete, content, test themselves and go full-bore into MMA as a career option.