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Women’s MMA has an opportunity to shine in upcoming UFC Chicago bout

Carrie Boike | Posted on March 13, 2019

The world’s biggest MMA promotion is coming to the United Center in June. Will Chicago get a women’s main event?

It is rare for a women’s fight to be the main event of a UFC pay-per-view fight card, but the sport has come a long way since UFC president Dana White said women would never fight in the UFC. It’s been a while since we’ve seen two women fight as the main event of the night. Will Chicago be the city to welcome women back to the top of the card?

Women’s MMA has an opportunity to shine in upcoming UFC Chicago bout

For those unfamiliar with MMA, the history of women in the sport is relatively new. Women only entered the UFC in 2012 with the advent of rising star Ronda Rousey, who brought huge pay-per-view numbers and was the first MMA star, male or female, to break into mainstream media as a household name. Rousey proved that people want to watch women compete in the sport and that they can sell ticket numbers that rival their male counterparts. We haven’t seen many women’s main events since Rousey’s fall from grace in 2016, and the UFC has struggled to find a female athlete with the same level of commercial success.

For those who live on planet Earth, it is common knowledge that female athletes are drastically under-promoted and underpaid. So no one is surprised to hear that it took some time and a considerable show of stardom for women to be taken seriously in a sport that is rampant with toxic masculinity. As a female fight fan, it’s not always easy to support the actions of the UFC and its fighters, but I can only imagine the struggle that female fighters go through to promote their fights.

The recent announcement that Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Eye will officially be duking it out for the women’s flyweight title at UFC Chicago is a glimmer of hope. No other fights have been announced yet, making it the perfect opportunity for the UFC to promote Shevchenko as the potential star and experienced martial artist that she is. The United Center will host Shevchenko’s first ever title defense since winning the belt in December against former strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Shevchenko has had a dominant career in kickboxing and Muay Thai, and since entering the UFC, her struggle to become champion in the bantamweight division has made her a fan favorite.

But the fight promotion has failed to get behind female champions in the past. Current bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes has failed to draw in large pay-per-view numbers, and the UFC is arguably at fault for not promoting her. Her recent superfight against women’s MMA legend Cris Cyborg should have been a main event. Nunes, a queer woman of color, and the first ever woman to be champion in two divisions of the UFC, has not received the support she deserves. Women in male-dominated industries have to be the cream of the crop just to gain an ounce of respect, and Nunes is not the exception.

The UFC has given incredible opportunities to female athletes, but they deserve more than just being allowed to fight. If Dana White supported female athletes like he supports Conor McGregor, the UFC would have a women’s champion that breaks through to a mainstream audience as Rousey did.

It is not likely that Shevchenko vs. Eye will be the main event for Chicago, but it would be a step toward equalizing the sport. Being pretty, or marketable shouldn’t be a prerequisite for receiving support from the company you work for. Women in the UFC should be judged on their skills as martial artists and nothing else, just like the men are.

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