Why every woman should be paying attention to UFC 184

I’ll be the first to admit that mixed martial arts is not for everyone. It’s an incredibly violent sport where someone getting hurt is a goal, not an accident. You’re guaranteed to see cuts, bruises, and blood. You might even witness a few broken bones. But there’s a fight card coming up tonight and it’s very important that everyone — especially women — pay attention to it.

UFC 184 will be taking place tonight, and originally, the main event was middleweight champion Chris Weidman versus Vitor Belfort, and the co-main event was women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey versus Cat Zingano. However, just a few weeks ago, Chris Weidman suffered a rib injury during training and had to pull from his fight. Instead of trying to find a replacement fighter or create a brand new fight, the UFC removed the fight from the lineup and shifted every fight up one spot. This meant that Rousey/Zingano went from the co-main event to the main event — and the fight scheduled for just before that one is now the co-main event.

That fight? Women’s bantamweight fighter Holly Holmes is facing off against fellow women’s bantamweight fighter Raquel Pennington.

For the first time in UFC history, two women’s fights will headline a fight night. And not just any fight night: a major, pay-per-view event.

There are a lot of people who don’t like competitive fighting; and again, it truly is not for everyone. However, while some may see the sport as barbaric, women’s athletics has seen some of its biggest progress in the world of MMA in recent years. The reality show “The Ultimate Fighter” has already had two seasons where female fighters competed. Right now, arguably the biggest name in mixed martial arts is Ronda Rousey, who not only dominates in her division, but stars in major blockbuster movies, poses for the red carpet, and can be found on the covers of magazines. In November of 2013, the UFC had a fight night where, for the first time ever, the majority of the fights on the card were women’s fights. In December of 2014, the UFC had their first-ever all-women’s undercard.

It has been a long and grueling fight (no pun intended) to get female athletes the same respect as male athletes, and we still have a long way to go. There are no professional women’s leagues in football, hockey, or baseball in America, and the WNBA still battles for sponsors and exposure. Top female athletes are asked to do things that their male counterparts would never be asked to do, like ”twirl” to show the crowd her new outfit.

Every day, we get closer and closer to better equality in athletics, but we still have a long way to go. This is why UFC 184 matters to all of us, even if we don’t like mixed martial arts. It’s another sign that the tides are turning. It’s another reminder that female athletes can be in the mainstream, that people are paying attention, and that the athletic world does not have to be a boy’s club.

Only time will tell how UFC 184 fares in terms of viewership. However, it is a breath of fresh air to see female athletes get the spotlight in such a fashion. It is another step in the right direction, and each step is vital for us to recognize and appreciate.

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