Even with Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey’s meteoric rise and exploding popularity, the future of Women’s Mixed Martial Arts (WMMA) is still in question. The former face of WMMA, Gina Carano looks to have left fighting behind. With the success of her movie, Haywire, she’s now in the process of filming a new movie, In The Blood. Carano’s also slated to be in the next Fast and Furious movie which could potentially catapult her to super stardom. During an interview with Ariel Helwani, Carano was asked if she was ever going to compete again and while her response was not exactly straight forward, if you read between the lines she essentially said that if her movie, Haywire, did well she would stay in Hollywood. It appears that Haywire did well enough to get her noticed by Hollywood execs so it’s safe to assume that she won’t be gracing the cage again.
You’ll be missed as a fighter, but I’m sure you’ll take Hollywood by storm
Then there’s Cris Cyborg. When we last saw Cyborg she had just destroyed Hiroko Yamanaka in 16 seconds, only to test positive for steroids and be subsequently suspended for one year. On top of that she was stripped of her Featherweight title. More than likely that’s the death knell for Strikeforce’s Featherweight division, especially considering that Cyborg made the announcement that she’ll be returning as a bantamweight once her suspension is over.
I wouldn’t want to be her opponent when she comes back, or ever.
It’s unknown how much longer Zuffa will decide to keep Strikeforce around. Most MMA journalists presume that Strikeforce’s days are numbered and it’s just a matter of time before they go the way of Pride FC, WFA, and the WEC. If Strikeforce’s days are indeed numbered, we’re fortunate that there’s another promoter of WMMA which has sprung up;Invicta Fighting Championships. While Invicta Fighting Championships is only one event in, it’s already showing promise. They’ve recently announced the entire fight card for their second event. And it looks damn good. As far as their signings are concerned, their roster is full of very talented fighters. Former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion, Marloes Coenen, is currently fighting under the Invicta banner. She defeated Romy Ruyssen during the first Invicta Fighting Championship event. Coenen is arguably the best Bantamweight not signed by Strikeforce. Although one could make the case for Shyna Baszler or Sara McMann.
Shyna Baszler and Sara McMann, two of the most talented and interesting Bantamweights, are slated to square off on July 28th, during the sophomore event of Invicta Fighting Championships. Shyna Baszler, the protegé of Strikeforce Heavyweight, Josh Barnett, is an innovative submission specialist, best known for her submission move, The Shwing; which is a modified “chicken wing”. She’s been out of competition since November of 2010 after her submission win over Elaina Maxwell, by no fault of her own. She’s been booked for numerous fights only for them to fall through at the last-minute. Baszler had been slated to defend her TCI title against Alexis Davis, however the match was called off when Davis was signed by Strikeforce. Afterwards she was slated to fight Kelly Kobold only for the event to be cancelled. Why Strikeforce hasn’t added Baszler to their bantamweight division is beyond me, but I’m thankful that Invicta has signed her and given her a very interesting opponent; Undefeated Olympic Silver medalist Sara McMann. McMann has ran through all of her opponents thus far, utilizing her superior athleticism and wrestling abilities. She has notable wins over Hitomi Akano and Tonya Evinger. While she’s reliant on her wrestling base, she has tremendous potential and continues to grow as a Mixed Martial Artist. If McMann is triumphant over Shayna Baszler, she could potentially be a very real threat to fellow Olympic medalist, Ronda Rousey, down the line.
Can. Not. Wait.
Invicta FC isn’t the first promotion to try their hand at promoting women’s mixed martial arts. Before them was Smackgirl, which promoted WMMA exclusively and Bodog fight, which promoted both male and female Mixed Martial Arts bouts. Lest we not forget about Bellator who recently had a landmark female fight of their own, pitting the number one and number two 115 lbs fighters, Megumi Fujii and Jessica Aguilar against one another. One could argue that Zoila Gurgel should be ranked at the top of the Flyweight division having defeated both Megumi Fujii and Jessica Aguilar, fyi.
Some respect for the lady! Jeez!
While I’m excited about Invicta FC’s emergence, it’s arguable that Invicta FC is simply on borrowed time and will eventually crumble like so many promotions before them. If Strikeforce does the same, where does female mixed martial arts go?
Eric Holden of yahoo sports has proposed something interesting. While it’s not a solution in and of itself for WMMA, it could certainly usher in a ground swell of interest. Mr. Holden has suggested that Ronda Rousey headline the UFC’s next card on Fox. At first glance it may sound like he’s over reaching by suggesting such a thing, seeing as how no female has ever competed in the UFC. But consider that following the demise of Elite FC, Gina Carano was offered an opportunity to fight in the UFC. She reportedly declined because Dana White was unwilling to create an entire women’s division. He instead only wanted to promote her fights. Gina Carano opted to sign with Strikeforce because they were willing to take WMMA more seriously as a whole, rather than simply promote what felt would be considered “freak show” fights. That said, it’s not unlikely that Dana White would extend a similar offer and opportunity to Ronda Rousey. He’s spoken very highly of her and she’s able to garner a lot of attention in and out of the cage.
A scenario with Ronda Rousey fighting in the UFC, especially a UFC on FOX event, could likely give rise to a strong demand for women’s mixed martial arts. What mixed martial arts fan could deny the allure of women’s mixed martial arts after witnessing Ronda Rousey snap her opponents arm like a twig? Few could. And with less than stellar ratings, Ronda Rousey may be exactly what the UFC needs to bring in more causal viewers and hardcore fight fans alike. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem likely that Strikeforce and Showtime would loan Ronda Rousey to the UFC and Fox considering she’s easily their biggest star. On top of that, since Strikeforce resigned with Showtime, Dana White has taken a very hands off approach to Strikeforce, not wanting to get his hands dirty with the promotion. Sadly and ironically, WMMA’s success may take form in the fall of Strikeforce, which is arguably the largest promoter of WMMA today, in order for WMMA to truly flourish.
– The “Cage Tested, Mother Approved” Prometheus