UFC 200 is arguably the biggest and the grandest MMA event of all time. It is an event where the strongest and the most popular MMA fighters from across the world will lock horns to achieve glory, and even fighters who compete on the undercard will be pumped up as a victory at this event could change their very life. This time two fighters will step in the octagon but only one will go down in history.
Women have made sure they are represented at this monumental event as there will be two women’s matches with Cat Zingano taking on Julianna Pena, and Miesha Tate defending her 135-pound title against Amanda Nunes.
These women not only represent themselves they represent the entire women’s MMA community, they represent female power, and last but not the least, they represent the fact that women too are a part of combat sports and have what it takes to be a part of the greatest and biggest event in the sport. It was definitely the talent of these women that got them here but one needs to know that several women from the sport made this day come true. The hard work of several women has made sure that the MMA community could witness female power and have women step in the octagon.
Today I would love to give a tribute to a few of the women who made sure the world respected women fighters and helped lay the groundwork for getting women in the octagon. Let us take a look at some of these pioneers and honor them as UFC 200 closes in.
Shayna Baszler (15-10)
Most of the people do not know who Shayna Baszler is, but people who closely follow MMA know her contribution to the sport and how she was not only a women’s MMA pioneer but is responsible for changing the attitude of many people towards the sport. Her struggle began way back 2003, where she would deliver speeches which would show her passion for the sport. She was a key spokesperson to create a South Dakota athletic commission for combat sports. She once delivered a speech that touched opposing Rep. Steve Hickey, who once labelled MMA as the “child porn” of sports. Hickey later changed his mind about the sport after visiting Baszler at the Next Edge Academy of Martial Arts, the training place of Baszler, as well as other mixed martial arts fighters and practitioners.
She was popularly called “rock star of MMA world” as she would carry a rock guitar to her matches, she was also called “The Queen of Spades” and her fans as the “Queen’s Army,” as each member is considered an intelligent minion of the Queen. Apart from being a spokesperson, “The Queen of Spades” was a super fighter. She has really good ground skills and is also a calculative striker. She has fought some of the best fighters which include, among others, Sara McMann, Alexis Davis, Cris Cyborg and Sarah Kaufman. Some fans may consider her a Ronda Rousey sidekick but fail to realize that while Rousey became a household name, pioneers like Shayna had worked hard for years preparing the ground and building the foundation which today holds the entire structure of women’s MMA. Even though she may not hold a fancy record Shayna has done everything to be respected and be called one of the greatest female combatants of all time.
Megumi Fujii (26-3)
Megumi Fujii is far and wide regarded as the best women fighter in MMA history. She was ranked as the best female fighter in world back in 2006, and was a pioneer of the sport. Megumi began her career back in 2004 and went on a 22 fight win streak to become only the second MMA fighter do have achieved such a record. Megumi is a grappler and has used various grabs to get her opponents in tactical submissions. Hence it is no surprise that out of her 26 wins, 19 have come by submission.
Apart from being an exceptionally good fighter Megumi managed to bring a lot of attention to female combat sports. Her hard work and super fighting style brought her huge attention from various media outlets. Though she was never a celebrity like Gina Carano or Ronda Rousey, her work in bringing depth to women’s MMA is beyond words. “Mega Megu” recently became a mother and is now a coach and still works to give the world good MMA fighters.
Gina Carano (7-1)
Gina Carano‘s contribution to the sport is undeniable as she was the first woman celebrity of the MMA world. If Shayna brought women combatants, if Megumi brought talent, then Gina brought the attention of media outlets to the women of the cage. “Conviction” started her career as a kickboxer where she managed a superior record 12-1-1. She started her career in MMA in 2006, fought three times that year and knocked out two of them. She was on a roll for two consecutive years with seven victories, out of which four were stoppages.
In two years Carano gained main stream popularity and was soon one of the most known female fighters. Carano also starred in the 2006 cult film Ring Girls. Based on true events, Ring Girls was a fast-paced story about five American women from Las Vegas who take on the ultimate challenge of fighting the best Muay Thai fighters in the world.
Along with Lisa King, Carano served as a mentor to aspiring fighters in the 2007 Oxygen reality series Fight Girls. She also appeared as “Crush” on the NBC show American Gladiators. Carano also crossed over into video games and appeared in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 as Natasha, a purchasable hero unit, portraying the Soviet sniper/commando in various cut scenes.
As her popularity continued to rise, Carano was featured in the Michael Jai White film Blood and Bone. In September 2009, Carano landed the leading role in the spy thriller movie Haywire (2011), directed by Steven Soderbergh. Christy Lemire of the Associated Press stated: “[Carano’s] dialogue delivery may seem a bit stiff — and she has acknowledged that Soderbergh made some tweaks to her voice in post-production — but she has tremendous presence: an intriguing mix of muscular power and eye-catching femininity”.
All these appearances made her very popular among the masses and as a result she went on to become a celebrity who was known beyond the cage. She was the reason why women got their first break. She faced Cris Cyborg at Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg marking the first event main evented by women. Though she lost that fight and subsequently retired from competing, Gina left quite a legacy behind her.
All these women have given huge contributions to combat sports and are responsible for the rise of women’s MMA. They are rarely acknowledged these days and treated as if they were some sort of sidekicks, but we should never forget their contribution to the MMA world.
Remember all women must fight….
Let the game of belts begin