Let’s be real — women haven’t always been accepted in sports, let alone fighting.
As we embark on what now appears to be the beginning of a golden age in women’s martial arts, more and more women are changing the narrative of femininity in MMA.
Women can fight. They can beat ass just like any male fighter and their authenticity as athletes should not be determined by their appearance or sexuality.
Cris Justino, Rose Namajunas, and Amanda Nunes are just a few of the UFC’s queens bossin’ up 2018. Not only are all these women of color reigning champs, but they each unapologetically challenge the stigmas women face in athletics.
Recognizing female talent in the MMA business wasn’t always the move. In 2011, TMZ asked UFC President Dana White when we would see women fight in the UFC.
His reply, “Women will never fight in The UFC.”
Look at ’em now-peep the three ladies who flipped the script in the UFC.
Cristane “Cyborg” Justino
Her rise in popularity upon signing to the UFC may make you think she’s an overnight sensation, but trust “Cyborg” is a vet in the game.
She made history in 2009 when she faced Gina “Crush” Carano in the first MMA event headlined by two women, ever. Justino came out on top despite being the underdog against Carano, who was the face of women’s MMA at the time, in a bout that solidified Justino as a major threat to every and anyone.
Even though the knockout artist only has one blemish on her record, her talents have often gone overlooked.
Justino has been highly criticized in the media for her muscular figure, leading to her to fall victim to performance enhancing drug allegations and cyberbullying. In a 2011 interview with Yahoo, Ronda Rousey referred to Justino as an “it”.
Back at UFC 219, Justino successfully defended her Featherweight Title against Holly Holm, only to be denounced by a photographer who described Justino as a “he” and “dude” in an Instagram post that has since been removed.
Justino wasn’t having it and called the fool out on Instagram and demanded an apology. “Cyborg” continues to dominate every fight she has and owns her muscles despite what the haters think. Put some respek on her name.
Rose “Thug” Namajunas
Rose Namajunas vs. Paige VanZant was one of the most highly anticipated fights of 2015. Both women were at the top of the strawweight division and set to be a show-stealer at UFC Fight Night 80.
Just weeks before the fight, the “Thug” decided to go G.I. Jane and chop off her locks. She later explained the motivation for the cut in an Instagram post,
“It’s a fight, not a beauty pageant,” Namajunas wrote. “S–t’s in my way at practice. Cut it off!”
Namajunas’s haircut wasn’t just a statement to her competitors, it was a statement to the members of the public and media who constantly sexualized women in fighting.
Ever since the buzzcut, Namajumas has continued to show and prove, upsetting long-time Featherweight Champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and winning gold at UFC 217.
In 2016, Nunes made history, becoming the first openly-gay fighter to win a championship after her epic win over Miesha Tate at UFC 200.
Nunes’s courage in being open with her sexuality is paving the way for other women and men to not let queer stigmas in sports hold them back, but instead be an empowering voice to others.
With sick wins over UFC veterans like Ronda Rousey, Nunes has repeatedly shown her talents as an athlete and maintains the top rank in the Women’s Bantamweight division.
Remember these names. These dope ladies are set to make even more noise in 2018. Take that patriarchy.