The main event of UFC 157 between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche begins new career opportunities for women in professional level MMA. Mixed martial art is the fastest growing sport in the world. In the fight sports becoming an UFC fighter is the “Big Show” equivalent to becoming a professional baseball player on a Major League Team. The difference is in baseball you don’t kick your opponent in the face before you choke them unconscious and are declared the winner. Both the men and the women who compete in professional level MMA are tough serious athletes however the sport of mixed martial arts (most combat sports) is still dominated by men. The fight between Rousey and Carmouche tonight and begins the UFC’s women’s division and it has female martial artists in the Tampa Bay area talking about what it could mean for “women” and “for the sport”.
Rebecca “Becca” Joy Griggs is a Brown Belt in Yoshukai & Mudokwan. Becca has trained under World Kickboxing Champion Erik Marshall for the past seven years. She shared her perspective on the fight tonight between Rousey and Carmouche.
How do you think the UFC's main event will change affect the perception of women as fighters and/or martial artists?
“This fight is a groundbreaking event for women who have chosen martial arts as a lifestyle/sport. It validates the fact that women are a vital part of this industry. Although not everyone's perception will change, hopefully the vast majority who feel this should be a male only sport/industry will open themselves up to the idea that women can and should be included.”
Do you think it will change attitudes towards women in the dojos across the country?
“Hopefully this will change attitudes toward women in Dojo's across the country. Instead of men seeing or treating women as eye candy maybe they will actually realize we truly want to learn and train in the sport rather than thinking we should be treated with kid gloves. Men, please, train us women how to really fight!”
Christine (“Chris”) Shirley trains in Shotokan karate. This first degree black belt will soon test for her 2nd degree (Nidan). Chris Shirley placed 2nd in kata and 1st in kumitae in a tournament in May of last year. As a professional woman Chris has earned the title of Partner and CFO of Grain Management, LLC but even at the office she is known as a martial artist. When asked about the first UFC Championship fight she shared her thoughts and a little about her dojo.
What would you like to see happen for women in martial arts and sports as a result of this weekend’s match?
“I’d like for this to spur interest in women participating in martial arts, and for women to be considered serious athletes in the UFC. Achieving these goals will take a few things.
First, women who watch the fight need to realize that the Octagon isn’t the typical martial arts dojo environment. Martial arts train the body, mind and spirit, and traditional training isn’t designed for getting into a ring and duking it out with an opponent. A good dojo emphasizes control and respect for your fellow students, with the realization that in a real fight…which would be nothing like an Octagon fight with rules and refs…the rules no longer apply.
Second, this is just a personal preference…I think how the female UFC fighters present themselves will say a lot about how seriously they want to be taken by the martial arts community. If they attempt to show as much skin as the girls who hold up the round cards, I think they’ll send the message that they’re somewhat more serious than oil wrestling. If they present themselves modestly and in clothing that works for the fight, then I think they’ll be taken more seriously. Both women have trained hard and earned their way to this level; I’d hate to see their accomplishments dampened in any way.”
How do you think this will change anything in your Dojo?
My dojo is already very accepting. While my particular style (Shotokan karate) tends to have a strong appeal to younger men, our Sensei and my fellow karate-ka are glad to work anyone who is willing to put in the training and discipline necessary to further the art. I’m a 50-year-old accountant training with guys who have been bouncers in bars and led very athletic lives; if they accept me, they’ll accept anyone who puts their all into it.