It’s an exciting and historical time for the world of mixed martial arts. The UFC has just unveiled their latest contribution to the world of women’s MMA: the 115-pound Strawweight division.
The news was announced via UFC press release, which reveals that 11 women will come from the all-female Invicta Fighting Championships. Those 11 fighters, whose contracts the UFC has been assigned, will compete in the 20th season of UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter reality series alongside 5 other women. And, if that’s not enough, for the first time ever, The Ultimate Fighter will crown a champion. That’s right, the winner of that season will become the inaugural UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion.
“The women’s 135-pound division in the UFC has been amazing and we know there are a ton of talented women’s mixed martial artists out there,” UFC president Dana White said in the release. “Now, you’ll see even more great women’s bouts in the UFC with the addition of the 115-pound division.”
Come May, 2014, Carla Esparza (current Invicta Strawweight Champion), Claudia Gadelha, Felice Herrig, Joanne Calderwood, Tecia Torres, Rose Namajunas, Bec Hyatt, Emily Kagan, Alex Chambers, Julianna Lima, and Paige Van Zant will get the action started at the UFC facilities in Las Vegas. The other five slots on the tournament-style competition will be filled via tryouts.
There’s no word yet on whether that tryout will be of the “fight your way into the TUF house” variety the show has featured over the last several seasons. That season’s coaches were likewise not announced.
The strawweight announcement comes just weeks before “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey defends her UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship at UFC 168 in a rematch with bitter rival Miesha “Cupcake” Tate, arguably the biggest match in the history of women’s mixed martial arts. The two served as the first women coaches on TUF’s most recent season.
The undefeated Rousey, 7-0, is a tough-as-nails ground fighter and Olympic bronze medalist in judo. Her opponent, Tate (13-4), is a submission wrestler. Her last fight was a TKO loss to Cat Zingano, who was scheduled to coach opposite Rousey on TUF and fight for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight title before a knee injury required surgery.
What do you think of the UFC expanding their women’s MMA offerings to feature the strawweight division?