The UFC caught a lot of flack after it announced the Feb. 11 bout between former women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm and kickboxing star Germaine de Randamie that determine the promotion’s first women’s featherweight champion.
Most fans and critics were upset that Cris “Cyborg” Justino, the current Invicta women’s featherweight champion who is 2-0 in the UFC, wasn’t being given the chance to make history. There were health issues and a recent USADA violation that have kept her from the Feb. 11 date. I’m sure Justino will eventually fight for the 145 pound title, assuming she gets her ducks in a row.
Sure, Holm and de Randamie may have not been the first choice – it probably wouldn’t have been mine. That said, when you create a division, you have to start somewhere and both Holm and de Randamie have big match experience.
And yes I’ve seen the “Holm is coming off two straight losses” argument, but she’s still the woman who knocked out the unbeatable Ronda Rousey in November 2015. Her run with the women’s bantamweight title was short, but she was still a champion.
Having another weight class, allows more opportunities for women to compete in the UFC. Aside from Holm, de Randamie and Justino there’s athletes such as Megan Anderson, who recently won the Invicta women’s interim featherweight title, former rival Charmaine Tweet, Marloes Coenen and Julia Budd – assuming the latter two receve a call from the UFC and jump ship from Bellator.
Women competing at 135 have a new division compete in, including Leslie Smith, Cat Zingano and Jessica Eye – though she, along with other fighters have been advocating for a women’s 125 division. Current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes threw her name in the hat for competing at 145 – though White shot that down.
To borrow a phrase from Holm in a recent MMA Fighting interview, “Because there’s a lot of girls out there are that are very tough and their all — everybody’s goal is to be in the UFC.”
To see this division grow, the UFC needs more stars – not just athletes to fill a card but fighters who can be the face of that weight class. Justino would be my first choice as she’s already got a legacy in mixed martial arts, a strong fan following and is building her own brand. This also prevents her from having to undergo a drastic weight cut before a fight.
Detractors of a women’s featherweight division will say “well it’s just Cyborg’s mountain, no one is going to beat her.” As Joe Rogan likes to say, “anything can happen in MMA.” The cream always rise to the top. People didn’t Rousey was going to lose, especially to the likes of Holm or Nunes.
Just remember fight fans. Five years ago, White said women would never fight in the UFC. After the promotion signed Rousey and several other fighters, it was “just the 135 division.” Then came the strawweight division.
If the women’s featherweight division does well, a female flyweight class won’t be too far behind.