Does The Progress of Women’s MMA Come at the Expense of Men’s MMA? | Editorial
Following the introduction of female mixed martial artists into the UFC, the UFC has taken heavy liberties in reducing the size its roster in their other respective divisions. Last month, headlines were made when top tier welterweight Jon Fitch was handed his walking papers alongside fifteen other fighters. While Fitch’s cut remains the most controversial, due to his top ten ranking in the welterweight division and successful string of wins he was able to put together in the UFC, many fighters ranging from Che Mills to Jacob Volkmann also saw their dreams of competing in the pinnacle of the sport swept from under them.
A similar trend occurred when the UFC made the decision to bring in lower weight classes as well. In the wake of the addition of the bantamweight and flyweight weight classes, fighters seemed to be getting released far above the average rate and it seems the UFC have continued to adopt this approach with its inclusion of women’s mixed martial arts.
While it is understandable why the UFC would choose this path, it creates a state of dissonance and disparity within the community of fans and fighters alike. From a financial standpoint, it may be unfeasible for the UFC to house all of its current fighters if it wants to possess the top talent in every single division. What is unfortunate is that instead of expanding through the addition of these new divisions, the UFC compensates by downsizing the scale and roster of its other respective divisions.
In short, this creates a disconnect as it posits the notion that the present cannot exist harmoniously with the future. While empowering and creating opportunities for women fighters is important for developing the women’s mixed martial arts community and prevalence of women in sports, it is discouraging to know that it may be potentially at the expense of others. While a causal link cannot be empirically established between fighters being brought on board and fighters being cut, a correlation and trend is clearly visible.
I applaud the UFC for taking steps to bridge the gender gap that exists between women and men in sports. Women in general are largely invisible in the arena of sports in comparison to their male counterparts who’s visibility heavily dominate the majority of sports they compete in. The prevalence of female role models in sports is vital for deconstructing established sexist gender norms that otherwise marginalize women to subordinate roles. Additionally, paving the way for stars such as Ronda Rousey may also prove to be a lucrative and wise financial investment as ratings indicate that stars can be made out of women and men alike.
On the other hand, it is unfortunate that this empowerment seems to come at a cost, but it would be insensible to point a finger. The UFC is after all a business, and without enough resources and enough funding, it cannot be expected to shoulder everything.