My partner likes to hold the remote control to the television. It’s a man thing. And it doesn’t bother me in the slightest – if we had wildly different viewing tastes it might be problem but we don’t. Apart from one thing. I’ve never been a huge fan of sweaty men in underpants rolling around a cage trying to mount each other. There are easier ways to get a date.
However, my perception of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) changed recently.
Ronda ‘Rowdy’ Rousey will do that to you. Smart, driven, powerful, beautiful and very, very dangerous – Ronda is my kind of woman.
Rousey was the co-main event at UFC 175. That’s right. The women fighters shared equal billing with the men. And the world didn’t end.
The Beijing judo bronze medalist defended her bantamweight championship belt for the fourth time. She’s never lost – it was her tenth straight win. She knocked out Canadian Alexis Davis in just 16 seconds and won performance of the night.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and the UFC is its most powerful franchise.
In 2011 there were no women competing in the UFC. When President Dana White was asked, ‘When are we going to see women in the UFC?’ he famously answered, ‘Never’.
This is a man who doesn’t mince his words. But this is also a man who knows a good thing when he sees it and is smart enough to change his thinking.
He watched her fight and pull off her signature move, a vicious arm-bar. The rest is history.
Rousey has been revolutionising the sport. Which other sports played by men and women give women top billing? It’s unheard of.
The sport has unearthed a genuine superstar and is backing her all the way.
To the uninitiated (me) this is a brutal, bloody and barbaric sport. But if you talk to the believers it’s far from that – they argue it’s certainly bloody and certainly brutal but the various skill sets of the highly trained athletes are phenomenal.
The landscape has changed in a short time. Introducing women into a male dominated sport was a brave thing to do – and from a purely commercial aspect it was the right thing to do. Not to mention the obvious equality angle.
At media conferences women fighters share the stage with the men. The huge promotional banners feature both men and women. This sends a powerful message. If the toughest sport in the world values women as much as men there should be no excuses for those that don’t.
Women also feature as reporters and hosts on UFC panel shows. Living proof that large powerful organisations, when they are serious, and when they put their mind to it, can implement real change. I wish some of our major sports would take note – there are lessons to be learned. Change doesn’t have to be as slow as continental drift.
I’ve called the UFC a lot of names over the years and I’ve had a lot of fun mocking my partner’s interest in it. I’m no convert – I just don’t enjoy watching people, male or female, knock the bejesus out of each other. But I do admire the way the UFC has elevated women in mixed martial arts.
The next time Rousey fights I won’t be rolling my eyes and asking for a channel change.
Accomplished MMA fighter and award-winning writer Cameron Conaway presents Caged, the true story of a young man who overcomes a family background and his own inner torment by learning to channel his frustrations into the physical world of mixed martial arts fighting and the cerebral world of poetry and writing.
Caged shows how the pursuit of two seemingly disparate passions helped a struggling boy blossom into a simple man. The result is a literary and lyrical philosophical journey into the heart and mind of a modern-day warrior.