There have always been women in mixed martial arts, but for many years, most MMA organizations did not sanction fights between female athletes. It took Dana White and the UFC 20 years to sanction a women’s MMA bout, and if you do a search for women in MMA, you’ll see the focus is still mainly on how the fighters look rather than on their skills and ability. Recently, female MMA fighters have made some important strides and have proven that they are as fierce as the men.

Clearly, the two recent women’s bouts in the UFC have been key moments in the history of women’s mixed martial arts. The first bout at UFC 157 was the main event of the night, a bout between Liz Carmouche and Ronda Rousey. At UFC 168, the women were still on the main card, although Rousey and opponent Meisha Tate were set as the fight prior to the big event of the night, the rematch between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman. Of course, there probably aren’t any fighters in mixed martial arts today who wouldn’t have come in second to that bout.

The formation of Invicta Fighting Championships also has been an important milestone for women in MMA. This organization, unlike most other MMA organizations, offers five different divisions. Most organizations only feature one or two divisions for women. Invicta has gotten off to a bit of a shaky start with some management problems and the lost of the top run of its strawweight division to the UFC, but hopefully, this organization will be here for many more years, offering a variety of options for fighters and encouraging young women to think about MMA.

There are few people on this earth who dislike each other more than Ronda Rousey and Meisha Tate. This is no doubt why Dana White decided to choose them as the coaches for season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter. Whatever the reason and whatever drama exists between these two fighters, this was a milestone because it was the first time that women were chosen as the coaches of this show.

It’s not just in mixed martial arts where the women are gaining steam. Other specific martial arts have seen a boom in the number of women heading to martial arts gyms and competing. Muay Thai, for example, has become quite popular for women, and the fights are drawing a lot of interest. One of the country’s top organizations for Muay Thai, Lion Fight, set a bout between Tiffany Van Soest and opponent Caley Reece as the headliners for an event early in 2014. Van Soest is considered to be on the nation’s best Muay Thai kickboxers, regardless of gender.

Not surprisingly, there are many women enjoying success in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well. This is fundamental part of mixed martial arts, and BJJ and Judo are two martial arts where many MMA fighters first learn their skills. There are many notable female BJJ fighters, such as Leticia Ribeiro who is currently a five-time World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion and has more than a dozen championships in general. Young girls and teens watching women such as Ribeiro, Rousey, Tate and Van Soest can envision a future for themselves either in martial arts or mixed martial arts.

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