When Ronda Rousey matched down the Octagon against Liz Carmouche on 23rd February 2013, it was a huge cultural moment for women in sports. The Bantamweight champion was set to record history with Liz Carmouche as these two fighters were to go against each other in the first female fight in UFC. That was a historic moment as that’s something that looked unthinkable two years ago.
In 2011, Dana White had previously revealed that women will never feature in the UFC when responding to a question from TMZ after an event. That statement soon came back to haunt the UFC president and he later admitted that it was foolish to say that.
At the time, the former Olympian Rousey was fighting in the Strikeforce – an organization later acquired by UFC owners Zuffa LLC. The former Olympian was undefeated in the Strikeforce and she had crushed Meisha Tate to claim the bantamweight crown.
UFC analyst Laura Sanko knew that it was only a special female athlete that could change Dana White’s thinking and influence change in the competition. According to Sanko, it just couldn’t be any athlete as there were several great female MMA fighters before Ronda Rousey came along.
Ronda was an excellent mix of an athlete who was crushing it in her sport and the way she was claiming victories was incredibly special. The bantamweight champion had a certain look that Sanko believes it took people by surprise, even without making it a sex symbol.
Sanko believes that people in those days had a perception of what fighters should look like and how female fighters should be. However, when you looked at Rousey, you wouldn’t immediately see her as a woman who fought for a living.
Dana White is known for highly respecting an air of confidence in his fighters, so he knows they can accomplish the tasks they ask for. With that in mind, Ronda went to Dana and told him that she can be a huge star in the UFC and she can be good business for the franchise. Ronda also believed she could forge a path for herself and other women in this sport.
Following their conversation, Dana White changed his mind, and women’s MMA has grown from strength to strength since this history-making moment. Several female fighters have made great strides in the UFC and MMA, becoming pioneers for this sport. That includes incredible female fighters like Cris Cyborg, Gina Carano, Meisha Tate, and Amanda Nunes, to mention a few.
Laura Sanko is especially proud of the way the UFC has ensured that both female and male athletes have equally shared the spotlight. It was featured on Vwin’s sport report that Sanko believes that the UFC is exclusive and special in how they treat their female fighters. Part of that is the sport’s nature, part of it is mainly in the UFC and the way they’ve forged a path for women in this sport.
According to Sanko, it’s common to see major segregation between the men’s and women’s versions of most sports. However, MMA is unique in how female and male athletes are presented on a single platform.
Sanko isn’t a stranger to making history in the UFC as she became the first UFC commentator post-Zuffa when she started doing commentaries for Dana White Contender Series. Following her performance in different on-camera roles in the UFC and becoming popular with the fans, Sanko believed it was the right moment to offer her voice in the Contender Series.
The UFC analyst said that when doing post-fight interviews, you get extra special knowledge about the sport. According to Sanko, Dana White didn’t listen during the first season, as he wanted to see fights and choose who would be in the UFC based on his perception of the fight.
During the second season, he had his earphones in, and during one episode, he texted Sank and confirmed that everything the analyst had said was what he was thinking about that fight. White ended up confirming that Sanko knew the sport and it wasn’t long after the incident that she asked for a chance.
Sanko later wrote Dana a message on Instagram and told him that she believed she was fit to be UFC’s first female color commentator. Dana replied that he believed him and Sanko was prepared to prove that she could do it.
Besides on-camera, Sanko has also experienced MMA’s tumbles and roughness. She has won one professional fight in the all-women promotion, Invicta. However, instead of stepping back into the Octagon, she cemented her legacy in broadcasting.
Sanko fought at 105, but the UFC doesn’t have an atom weight division. As such, she believes it would take a special fight for her to get back in the ring. However, the excitement that she gets when working a big fight fills the void and the need for adrenaline.
For Sanko, paving the way for female broadcasters in the UFC is the best way to pay back the women who have given incredible performance to the franchise and the sport in general.