One afternoon, while salivating over smoked salmon on soda bread and drinking a dry cappuccino, I heard the lyrics “This is a Maaaans world, and it would be nuffink, nuffink without a woman or a girl…”. This got me thinking two things: first was how Ronda Rousey has helped the female division of this sport leap to new heights, the other was “Why on earth am I in this café?”.
By Mark Wincott @Tattooed_Ginge
Before Ronda Rousey defeated Miesha Tate in 2012 for the (now defunct) Strikeforce bantamweight belt, a benchmark had been set in 2009. Christine ‘Cyborg’ Santos came up against undefeated Gina Carano, the first time two women had headlined a card on a major promotions. ‘Cyborg’ retained the belt, and to this day is still the best pound for pound female fighter in the world that has never fought in the UFC.
With the sale of Strikeforce to Zuffa, and the retirement of the female division in Bellator (in 2014 they brought flyweight back), a gap appeared. Shannon Knapp brought Invicta – a women’s only fighting promotion – to the world, providing a home for female fighters to become the best and fight for world titles. A promotion that finally catered for all the relevant weight divisions, allowing a female fighters to participate and not struggle with a weight cut just to get on a card.
Let’s go back to 2010 at UCMMA 17, where London Shootfighters’ own Michelle ‘Tough Love’ Tyler defeated Vicki Watts in the company’s first ever female MMA fight. At the time there weren’t enough female for fighters partaking in the sport for Tyler to compete and against, enabling her to grow. That fight at UCMMA 17 may have been Michelle Tyler’s only MMA bout, but who knows where her journey could have gone in MMA? Luckily we do have some pioneers of the game in this country, led by Rosi Sexton – who made her debut in 2002, and is the first female from the UK to fight in the UFC at Bantamweight (even though she was really a flyweight). Aisling Daly and Joanne Calderwood fly their nation’s respective flags, showing there’s more to come from our side of the shores and more support for athletes. As of today, who can carry on the hard work that Sexton, Daly and Calderwood have been doing and who can reach those heights set by Santos, Rousey, Tate, Carano, Holm and Jedrzejczyk, to name a few?
This dry cappuccino isn’t very nice and not worth the mortgage money that I’ve now spent, it was a gamble and gambling could well be the worst addiction out there. To take my mind off that, let’s look at who, in 2016, are the female fighters in the UK, Ireland and EU that can make it to the big leagues – such as Invicta and UFC along with making waves at BAMMA and the returning Cage Warriors.
First up is another Polish fighter, and you all to need keep an eye out for this 20-year-old ‘Queen of the Elbows’, who has already amassed 7-0 record. Say hello to Agniesza ‘Kuma’ Niedzwiedz, who already owns victories over Brits, Kate Jackson and Kerry Hughes. ‘Kuma’ may feature in the returning Cage Warriors April bout in London and is actually related to UFC Strawweight, Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Next we have Laura ‘Hot Head’ Howarth, signed with Invicta in their bantamweight division and currently awaiting her promotional debut. Laura has a pro record of 2-1 and is an exciting prospect, her craft will build and evolve with Invicta.
BCMMA’s very own amateur Strawweight champion, Bryony Tyrell made her pro debut in 2015, defeating Jade Barkeron the Shock ‘n’ Awe 21 card. Tyrell has the attitude to grind out a victory, and talent to continue moving upwards.
We cannot go ahead without mentioning the number one female in the UK outsideof the UFC, Kate Jackson, who currently fights for the Finnish organisation, Lappeenranta Fight Night. Kate’s on a three-fight winning streak and another who could be called upon by Cage Warriors.
My favourite architect of the female game is Kerry ‘Rocksteady’ Hughes, who’s still under contract with Cage Warriors and currently wondering what will happen when they finally come out of hibernation and venture out of their cave. Until then, Kerry was meant to be competing on the BAMMA 24 card in Ireland, facing Sinead Kavanagh. Unfortunately the fight has been cancelled due to one participant wanting the fight to take place at featherweight contest.
“AND FINALLY…” (in my best Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson voice), with an amateur record of 2-2 is Trojan Free fighter, Polly Beauchamp. A strawweight fighter with a kickboxing record of 4-0, Beauchamp is an exciting prospect, one who will will bring it with impressive hand speed and movement, always fun to watch. Beauchamp is set to compete on the Hybrid 6 card on February 20 – which will be her first fight since losing at the IMMAF championships.
The good news is there’s plenty of female athletes heading to the octagon and fighting at an appropriate weight, no longer having to destroying themselves just to fight with an organisation. With a possible flyweight division opening up in the UFC, this will give more opportunities for the occupiers of Venus.