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Classy Felice Herrig takes the high road after call out from legendary striker

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Bellator MMA star Felice Herrig said on March 7 that she would rather focus on her upcoming bout with Heather Clark than get wrapped into a Twitter war with the stars of WMMA who bash female fighters who play up sex appeal.

"I will stay away from commenting because it's all negative energy," Herrig said. "I would rather stay focused on the positive. I have a fight to prepare for and a lot of great things happening. Everyone has a right to their opinion."

Legendary striker Tara LaRosa made headlines on March 2 by declaring via Twitter that female fighters who play up the sexy angle are generally lacking in skill.

While she didn't specifically call out Herrig, "Lil' Bulldog" is essentially the face of "the sexy side" of women's MMA, or fighters who think it's perfectly fine to use sex appeal to enhance their careers.

LaRosa took to Twitter to weigh in on the issue, as she explained that there has always been a divide between fighters who use sex appeal to enhance their careers, and those who do not.

"@EricHolden Growing?... Its always been there! It used to be worse too. Your newb is hanging out again, tuck that back in bro," LaRosa said via Twitter.

Do old-school, traditional fighters such as LaRosa, who opt not to use sex appeal to enhance their careers, have legitimate reason to be upset with female combatants that do sexy photo shoots in bikinis?

There's no real right or wrong answer, but it's clear female fighters who play up the sexy angle, have taken the sport to new heights.

Would female MMA be where it is today had Ronda Rousey not posed artistically nude for ESPN the Magazine, or if Strikeforce hadn't marketed the star judoka's fight against Sarah Kaufman by dolling her up in tight-fitting leather for promo commercials?

The answer is a resounding 'no.' Unfortunately, many casual fans of MMA only give the female fighters a chance because they are drawn in by good looks and sex appeal.

It's not until afterwards that they discover women's MMA is the farthest thing from a "barbie fight" or "diva match," and that these girls brawl just as hard as the men.

Legendary fighters like LaRosa have been duking it out since 2002, but it wasn't until super attractive, marketable stars like Gina Carano, Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey started fighting, that the national sports media began to take notice of the sport.

LaRosa took it one step further by claiming fighters who play up the sexy angle are generally lacking in skill.

"@EricHolden @sarahdalelio @modifiedmind @jessicapenne @babesofmma In general, those who play up the sexy angle are those lacking in skill," LaRosa said on Twitter.

It's hard to find any validity to LaRosa's point, as Rousey is considered by most media sources to be the No. 1 pound-for-pound female fighter in the world, yet she has posed artistically nude and appeared in promo shoots in tight-fitting leather.

And then there's Herrig, who has posed for numerous ads campaigns in sexy bikinis and tiny sports bras. Herrig is the No. 5-ranked strawweight in the world, and she has beaten veteran strikers such as Amanda LaVoy and Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc.

LaRosa also forgot about Michelle Waterson, the No. 3-ranked atomweight in the world. Waterson is a skillful submission expert who fights Jessica Penne for the Invicta FC atomweight strap on Apr. 5, yet she has played up the sexy angle in the past by appearing in bikini-clad photo shoots.

Rousey, Herrig and Waterson are just three examples of skillful female fighters who play up the sexy angle to enhance their careers. Newly-signed UFC bantamweight Miesha Tate made a name for herself by posing in booty shorts for Fight! Magazine, and talented Invicta FC pro Paige VanZant is a part-time model when she's not punching faces inside the cage.

"@TaraLaRosa: There is a difference between feminine and sexual. You don't have to be sexual to be feminine," LaRosa posted on Twitter.

To sum it up, there is room for all kinds of female fighters. It would be disastrous if all female fighters marketed themselves as models, but the fact that a small percentage do will help the sport more than hurt it.

Many fans may not have ever discovered LaRosa's fights had it not been for fighters like Felice Herrig and Miesha Tate drawing them in with the "sexy" angle.

"No such thing as anyone being bad for the sport," Herrig said. "Every sport takes a variety and all walks of life to draw attention from all angles."

Herrig fights Clark on March 28 at a Bellator MMA event in Tampa, Florida.