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Rachael Ostovich vs Paige VanZant: Why their fight is bigger than MMA

Rachael Ostovich and Paige VanZant are about to make history at UFC Fight Night on Jan. 19, but there’s much more than a title on the line.

The two flyweight fighters will go head to head on the UFC’s debut on ESPN+, just a couple months after Ostovich was severely abused at by her husband, Arnold Berdon.

A few months prior to the incident, VanZant released her book Rise, Surviving the Fight of My Life, which revealed that she was a victim of sexual assault in high school.

While the fight has gained a lot of media attention under the unfortunate circumstances, it’s also giving a much-needed spotlight on abuse victims that couldn’t have come at a better time.

Fighting is much more than a hobby or a workout, it’s a lifestyle. The mental resilience, discipline, and self-awareness that goes into physical training translates into every aspect of life and behind every fighter, there is a story.

While women fighting in combat sports is far from new, the paths that female fighters have taken are still often overlooked for superficial reasons. Ostovich and VanZant are two of the most elite fighters in MMA today who still face the age-old problem of being placed in a box for their looks.

Seeing a “pretty” girl fight is still taboo for some who may only associate the toughness of a fighter with a certain exterior, which undermines the fights that women go through on the daily.

Both of these women have been through hell and back and are throwing down to show women everywhere that being a victim doesn’t define them as VanZant explained the importance of the fight to,

“We’re both trying to win a fight. But afterwards and even throughout the process, we can show how strong women are and use this to stand up for ourselves and stand up for women and women’s rights and everything that goes beyond — domestic violence and sexual abuse. Just use it to speak up. Even not changing anything, but just be a voice. I know we’re not the only ones who have been through it, it’s just ours are highlighted because we are on this platform.”

The bout was originally called off after Ostovich’s alleged incident first occurred back in November 2018 when her management, SuckerPunch Entertainment, released a statement saying she wouldn’t be able to compete after suffering a fractured orbital bone amongst other injuries to her face and body.

Ostovich was hospitalized after the alleged attack by her husband who is also a trained MMA fighter and is heard screaming for her life on recently released audio of the attack, after being told: “I’m going to fucking murder you.”

The unfathomable experience caused a media frenzy and led to Ostovich pulling out of the fight. Many were shocked when just a few weeks later Ostovich proudly told the world that the fight was back on during an interview with KHON2 of Hawaii,

“Although this is a very difficult time for me and my family, I felt that this fight in January was important. I felt that it was extremely important to me to follow through with it and not only for me but for my daughter and other people that might be going through similar situations, I want to take a stand against domestic violence and show others that it’s okay to come out and speak about it and not be quieted.”

Mic. Fucking. Drop. If she wasn’t badass enough, Ostovich’s strength, courage, and poise is a great example for domestic violence victims everywhere.

While she’s still battling with the trauma of what occurred, Ostovich is using her platform to show other victims that they are not alone and that speaking up about it and showing vulnerability is far from a sign of weakness.

VanZant was geeked to hear the fight was back on too.

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt has also been outspoken about her past after public speaking about her experience with bullying and sexual abuse as a freshman in high school.

Van Zant was gang-raped which put her on a downward spiral until she found solace in MMA. She told Good Morning America,

“MMA fighting saved my life, it saved who I was as a person, too.”

More controversy surrounding the bout has come by way of another fight on the card, including ex-NFLer, Greg Hardy who was found guilty for assaulting a woman back in 2014.

While many have criticized the decision to put both fighters on the same card, Ostovich isn’t losing focus as she told Ariel Helwani in an interview, “I have nothing to do with Greg Hardy. I’m just grateful to be fighting again.”

Seeing such fearlessness makes it hard to believe that just a few years ago, UFC President, Dana White was adamant when telling TMZ that “women will never fight in the UFC.”

More respect for women in sports entertainment is being seen across the board. Take the WWE for instance.

Although they are VERY different, the WWE and the UFC share a similar demographic, and while I love Trish Stratus, her barking like a dog to Vince McMahon’s command didn’t start the century off on the best foot.

2018 saw the WWE hold their first all-women PPV headlined by former UFC champ, Ronda Rousey, showing how marketable women can be without fighting in mud.

Ostovich vs VanZant is more than just a fight, it’s a historical moment marking an age where women from all walks of life are standing up and speaking out.

Hell, just the other day, fellow UFC strawweight, Polyana Viana straight up washed a dude who tried to mug her on the streets of Brazil.


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On the left is @polyanaviana, one of our @UFC fighters and on the right is the guy who tried to rob her #badfuckingidea

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Year after year, women in combat sports continue to break the ceilings set for them and show the depths of the fighter’s mindset.

Yes, women can fight and yes, they can be baddies while doing so. We run the fucking world, remember?

Gone but far from finished: Why MMA still needs Ronda Rousey

The ink just dried on Ronda Rousey’s contract with the WWE and the former “Golden Girl” of the UFC is already set to premiere at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. While the career move definitely will put Rousey in a great position for continued mainstream success, she still has unfinished business in MMA.

Rousey has been a life-long wrestling fan and has made several appearances on WWE programming throughout her MMA career so the move isn’t that much of a surprise. I mean, she even got permission from the late, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper to use “Rowdy” as her nickname.

On the flip-side, Rousey helped break down a lot of barriers for women in MMA, she was the first Female UFC Champion and has six successful title defenses.

Hell, UFC President Dana White was adamant about not having women compete in the organization until he signed Ronda. Now the UFC holds multiple women weight class divisions and fighters like Holly Holm, Amanda Nunes, and Rose Namajunas headline pay-per-views all the time.

Women’s MMA has come a long way, but that’s not to say there aren’t more barriers that need to be broken. Female fighters still have to deal with their competition being hyper-sexualized by media and fans, rather than appreciated for the dope athleticism they bring to the table.

Rousey was no stranger to this treatment as well, but her no-frills approach to fighting and crazy ground-game skills got the respect of many and helped prove that beauty should not overshadow the skillset of any athlete, especially a woman.

Rousey was no angel though. Her infamous trash talk against opponents got her a lot of backlash from fans, especially before her fight against Holly Holm at UFC 193 where she lost her Bantamweight Title.

After suffering another loss at the hands of Amanda Nunes, many were quick to turn their backs against Rousey, citing her villain-like baditude as the reason.

But Rousey is definitely not the first fighter to talk a lot of trash, the sport has seen dozens of men who talked shit, had setbacks, but were still loved by fans (Tito Ortiz anyone?). What makes Rousey any different?

Not touching gloves during weigh-ins, acting arrogant during press conferences, and being straight-up disrespectful have always been admirable qualities when displayed by male athletes who were donned bad-asses, while Rousey got called a bitch.

Rousey challenged this perception in athletics and was quick to give the finger to anyone who had a problem with it. MMA still needs that. Even in combat sports, women who don’t fit the humble, angelic mold are stigmatized and that shouldn’t be case.

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We need a villain, we need someone with hardcore mentalities who’s unapologetic about it. Rousey’s heel-like arrogance and mainstream marketability made you hate her, love her, and be shook all at the same time. 

Having a women’s division in the most popular MMA organization was one door that got knocked down, but now we have to continue to fight for room for women to be themselves and not get shitted on for it.

Hate her or love her, Ronda Rousey made history and changed the game for women in MMA. In this climate, an athlete of her stature is needed more than ever.