“Human Cockfighting”: Women in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

Senator John McCain once claimed that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) was known as “human cockfighting.”  Looking back on that statement, MMA has been taken to new heights and is not only sweeping the nation but is making its footprint in the international environment.  The UFC is no longer exclusively hosted by North American states but also Canada, Europe, Japan, and South America.  According to plans by UFC President, Dana White, 2013 will bring the UFC to South East Asia.  Today, MMA athletes and news have been posted on the front pages of The L.A. Times, USA Today, and CNN to name a few and the UFC even has its own tab on ESPN.  It is clearly evident that MMA is the sport of the 21st century, but what about women competitors in the Octagon?

UFC 157 Cover


            MMA has traditionally been a sport dominated by males and has its roots from gladiatorial contests in the Coliseum. The gladiators were combatants who would fight in violent confrontations with others for the sole purpose of entertainment.  Although MMA fighters are professionally trained athletes who fight for the passion of the sport, the international environment has taken much interest in the competition, similar to that of the 2nd century.  Viewers are more intrigued in the UFC than boxing and the general public; but more specifically, women competing in the Octagon has sparked the attention of new viewers.

UFC 157

Click image for UFC 157 trailer

The fight card for UFC 157 made history; it was the first time two women headlined the main card and it was all it was hyped up to be.  I was a bit hesitant to purchase the fight because I had seen women fight before and it is very different from the fights between the men.  It was three straight rounds of women grappling and wrestling.  The general public wants to see quick knockouts or a tap-out, not letting the judges decide the outcome of the fight.  It is just Western culture.  But, who wants to see women throwing punches and getting bloody anyways?  One likely cringes at the thought of that since, “women are supposed to be feminine,” and there is nothing feminine about combat sports.  This may stir some controversy and disturb several parents. However, UFC 157’s main card was one of the better fights of the night; it was very technical and despite a bias on females fighting, it was very entertaining.  As a matter of fact, UFC 157 had almost 40% more pay-per-view buyers than UFC 156 between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar (UFC 157 Records an Estimate 500,000 buys).

UFC 157 is paving the way for women competing in the biggest fight promotion in the world.  Although there will never be competition against men, women are making their mark in a sport that has been traditionally dominated by males, and they are doing it well.  As women are beginning to break traditional sports barriers, is Western culture beginning to see a shift toward equality with women in popular professional sports?  Last February, Danica Patrick qualified first in the Daytona 500.  This past weekend Lauren Silberman became the first woman to audition for the regional National Football League Combine.  What will be next?

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About mziar001

I am an international studies student at Old Dominion University originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am pursuing a commission in the Navy in spring 2013.
This entry was posted in Gender Reversal, Masculinities, Sports, Stereotypes, Television. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to “Human Cockfighting”: Women in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

  1. brianoshei says:

    Women in sports has always been controversial in that it is a man’s world and there is no place for women. When it comes to fighting this is especially true in that it is male dominated and you rarely see women involved in these sports other than an interviewer or a show girl. In light of this new event of women fighting each other in MMA is very surprising because women fighting normally tends to be sexualized and not serious at all. Hopefully this event, Danica Patrick, and Lauren Silberman can break the barriers of women in men’s sports.

  2. reztap says:

    As a female who has trained Muay Thai in an MMA gym, I have first hand dealt with this matter. Since I have practiced sparring with both men and women, I have no doubt that females fight just as hard, if not with more ferocity than men. I have heard this from men who have sparred with women as well. In what is a “tough” sport, and a predominately male domain, these women have to be ruthless in order to be taken seriously. I have attended several cage fights and in an evening that is composed of about thirty fights, only one or two are between females. I am glad the UFC is giving the women the opportunity to compete in this combat sport.

  3. ctayl059 says:

    Women are known to have more pain tolerance and its not like the females are fighting males. Sure they may be training with men but I’m happy men and women are getting to share the spotlight in this sport. Women can do manly things, whether we like to admit it or not, it is sometimes even better than we can do ourselves. As brutal as this sport may be, it is a great way for women to gain support in athletics and show their strengths too.

  4. mchap016 says:

    After having watched the event, I was intrigued to see two professional UFC female fighters headline a main event. Both of the women were going out of societal norm and changing the way women having traditionally been viewed. Women are seen to be motherly, docile, delicate passive, none of those qualities the women emplified. Both fighters were portraying strong, dominant, powerful, aggressive, masculine roles during the fight. While watching the fight at a local bar, I heard many men say that it wasn’t a “real fight, because it was two girls” they didn’t take the women seriously precisely because of their gender. I feel that those views of past patriarchy are outdated and new concepts of women’s independence and success have to be accepted. Times are changing and women are becoming more and more powerful, successful, and educated no longer being forgotten by our society.

    • mziar001 says:

      I totally agree with you, the perception of females in society has changed, although there are some sexists. Regarding the fight, for one to say that it wasn’t a real fight because they were too girls is complete ignorance. I would venture to say that the men who made the comment wouldn’t step into the octagon with either Rousey or Carmouche.

      • mchap016 says:

        Absolutely, the men were very ignorant, and seemed to be all about their masculinity. I think they felt that any women that shows power, strength, and masculinity that does not fit the “norms” of how women are “supposed” to be precieved in society is threatening to them. Powerful and independent women whether they are participants in sports that are highly masculinized threatens a mans ego and authority and makes certain men feel like they are being challenged.

  5. acluv002 says:

    You think females will never fight males in the UFC? I know at my high school we had a girl on our wrestling team and she wrestled with/against males. I know wrestling and mma are different but who really has the advantage in mma? A lot of males aren’t willing to hit a girl so she may get a few “free” hits in on him before he gets mad enough to really start fighting back. Another concern would be the social backlash he would be likely to receive… win or lose.

  6. efretz90 says:

    Its amazing to see women fighting in the octagon, going against tradition and pushing the boundaries of what is and what is not. Of course now-a-days, especially in America the new popular thought is typically if men can do it then so can women.”Anything you can do I can do better” now applies to women and men, given if women were to compete against men, there wouldn’t be much competition typically. But times are changing and the way things are done are also, the simple fact that UFC 157 where the women fighters were headlining had more pay-per-view purchasers than UFC 156 where men were headling is surprising, and anytime money, ratings and intrigue is involved, the inner business man comes out, and you can be sure that wont be the last headlining women fight in major UFC cards to happen.#Moneytalks

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