While it was another relatively slow weekend of MMA, Strikeforce did have a Challenger's series card they put on in the State of Washington, which featured some of their rising young stars. One of those featured on the card was their 135lb. women's champion Sarah Kaufman (12-0, 9 KO's) (Pictured left). After a close back and forth match-up against tough Roxanne Modaferri (15-6, 1 KO 2 Subs), Kaufman maintained her perfect record by finishing Modaferri late in the third round with a Quinton 'Rampage' Jacksonesque type slam that KO'ed the challenger.
After witnessing this display of skill and power and seeing the total beatdown last month that Strikeforce's 145lb. champion Cristiane 'Cyborg' Santos put on game Jan Finney; it made me wonder, what possesses pretty women to want to engage in combat sports? Of course, there is the other debate which is, do women even belong or have a place in sports such as Mixed Martial Arts or Boxing?
The first time I ever witnessed a professional women's fight was back in January 1994. On the undercard of the first Julio Cesar Chavez/Frankie Randall Pay-Per-View, they featured a bullish looking 140lb. fighter by the name of Christy Martin. Her nickname, 'The Coalminer's Daughter', along with her appearance summed up my "bullish looking" reference and bully is what she did as with over 20 fights under her belt, she proceeded to knockout a fighter with just two fights on her resume in the first round.
I remember the reaction my friends and I had when they first showed they were having women fight on the undercard; we were shocked, but pleasantly surprised. Not so much at their skill level, but at the heart they displayed as they put on more action in less than one minute than most of the guys did that night.
Of course, women's boxing went on to become an accepted normality and some women, besides Martin, went on to become household names and featured attractions within the sport and beyond. Fighters such as Mia 'The Knockout' St. John and Laila Ali even went on to become mainstream with St. John being featured in Playboy and Ali eventually participating in 'Dancing with the Stars'.
The same can now be said for females in MMA. Just a short two years ago, the flag for women's MMA was begrudgingly placed upon the shoulders of poster girl Gina Carano. With runway model looks and Muay Thai skills to match, Carano springboarded women's MMA as she was twice featured on CBS with the now defunct EliteXC promotion and then headlined a Strikeforce card last summer against the aforementioned 'Cyborg' Santos. While she lost against Santos and hasn't been heard from since, she's taken her good looks to the big screen for the moment; her contribution cannot go unnoticed and hasn't been in vain.
Since then women's MMA has exploded on the scene and more fighter's are becoming stars not just for their looks, but rather their skill. While Santos is currently the cream of the crop, there are other women to keep an eye out for. Megumi Fuji is a 120 lbs. Japanese grappling sensation that is currently (20-0, 16 Subs). Erin 'Steel' Toughill (10-2-1, 5KO's) @ 155 lbs. is as tough as her nickname implies and Zoila Frausto, another 120 lbs. fighter, @ (7-1, 1 KO 2 subs) is another "Warrior Princess", which is her nickname, to lookout for.
For a moment Strikeforce was the only major promotion carrying a women's division; However, Bellator followed suit and plans to have a women's tournament in their third season. The UFC currently does not feature women and although Dana White has emphatically said no to the idea and publicly denounces it, I think he realizes he may have let a golden opportunity pass him by.
As to the question, why do women fight? I think if we're going to ask that question of women, we need to start with the men first. Knowing what I know as a man who understands the thrill of competition and the love of this sport, the answer is no different for women. I mean let's face it, women are not just pretty faces anymore.