Women’s MMA is one of the few female sports that is taken nearly as seriously as the men's equivalent. Strange, considering the obvious differences in exposure compared to other sports.
However, there is a reason for this. While many view it as a “man's only” sport, there have been a number of female pioneers who have not only shown that you should take female MMA seriously but have also shown that you should take them seriously as fighters.
Ronda Rousey is one of the most recognisable names in the world of MMA and the UFC. She is right up there with the likes of Conor McGregor when it comes to name recognition. She is also easily one of the reasons why female MMA has reached the mainstream like it has.
While the Olympic Judoka bronze medalist has moved on from her MMA days, she was famous for her ferocious ability in the ring, and for how dominant she was. She gained so much star power that female MMA gained more recognition as a result with more people tuning in and buying PPV’s just to watch Rowdy Ronda Rousey in the ring.
Ronda Rousey UFC 190 Fight Week by UFC Facebook
A fighter who shot to stardom after defeating Ronda Rousey, who at the time looked unbeatable, Holly Holm gained fame and therefore brought more attention to female MMA, simply through her successes.
Rousey was the most dominant female fighter in the UFC at the time, and for Holm to come in and stop her in her tracks was a massive moment not only for her, but for the sport as a whole. The fight was also incredibly popular, once again showing the draw power these two women had at the time.
If we are going to talk about dominance, we have to talk about Cris Cyborg. The Brazilian has had her fair share of controversy, but she was also the woman who, in 2009, beat Gina Carano, the Ronda Rousey of female MMA before the actual Ronda Rousey.
Her impressive speed and strength destroyed any ideas that women’s MMA was the softer version of the men’s sport, with Cyborg leaving many opponents in need of a trip to the hospital once she was done with them.
Back in the early 2000s, women’s MMA wasn’t a thing; that was until serious pioneers of the sport, like Fujii, brought it into the spotlight. Her name isn’t mentioned enough when the history of MMA is brought up, and that is something that really needs to change.
She fought in Japan until she joined Bellator in 2010 with an undefeated 19-0 record. She would make it to 22-0 before suffering her first loss. She retired in 2013, but the effort she put in to make female MMA mainstream, not only for her but her peers too, is almost unmatched, and she deserves far more recognition for it.
Megumi Fujii. Photo Credit: Unknown
While she only recorded 8 fights in her MMA career, finishing with a record of 7-1, Gina Carano was the first woman who was able to draw large crowds and attention to the sport of women’s MMA.
Carano was able to bring in mass media attention, and shine a huge light on the sport. She has also been on the big screen, showing her fighting ability and proving over and over again that it isn’t only men who can step into the Octagon.
While the fighters on this list have either retired or are in the twilight of their careers, there are a number of fighters who have become huge draws to the sport in the here and now, one being Rose Namajunas.
Standing at only 5’5”, and weighing 52kgs, Namajunas has become famous for her tenacity and ferocity in the ring. She is a pitbull that is ready to strike at any point. She also has numerous titles and awards to her name, and is currently one of the most successful female fighters in the world right now.
Amanda Nunes will most likely go down as one of the most dominant fighters in MMA history, and will definitely be considered a legend by the time she puts an end to her career. She is only the third fighter in the history of the UFC to hold multiple titles in different weight classes simultaneously, the other two being Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier.
Nunes is also currently number one in the women’s pound-for-pound rankings, and is also the only fighter to defend two different titles while holding onto both of them. She has not only set a new benchmark for female fighters, but has set a new benchmark for fighters as a whole. A true living legend.
Amanda Nunes victorious at UFC 232 from UFC Facebook
While the world of female MMA still has a ways to go to reach the same level as male MMA, these women have done so much for the sport, and deserve all the recognition they receive; not only for helping to build the sport to where it is today, but also for the foundation they have laid to help it go further than anyone could ever have imagined.