The UFC Added a New Weight Class for Women. Here's Why That's Important
Adding this new weight class will hopefully reduce drastic weight cuts.
Earlier this month, Nicco Montano defeated Roxanne Modafferi on UFC's TV show, The Ultimate Fighter. Along with earning a six-figure contract with the organization, the 28-year-old also picked up the first-ever women's flyweight division title. This new weight division is set to open a lot of doors for women in the MMA who have been forced to drastically lose weight in order to fight in a division that gives them the best advantage.
Until recently, the UFC only allowed women to fight in four different weight divisions, compared to eight for men. The first is strawweight where fighters must be 115 pounds during weigh-ins. That's followed by bantamweight, which jumps to 135 pounds, then featherweight at 145 pounds. Because of the massive 20-pound jump between the strawweight and bantamweight classes, several women in the UFC have been clamoring to add another division in between.
"The jump between 115 and 135 pounds is massive, especially if you naturally fall at 125, which a lot of women in the UFC do," Montano tells Shape. "That's why there really isn't a 'healthy' way to make strawweight or bantamweight, but women still did it because of their love for the sport and because they want to fight."
"Women have never naturally fit into two or one weight divisions, so for years they've been trying to make it in this sport by resorting to desperate measures," Modafferi tells Shape. "The more weight classes you add, the more you're able to eliminate unhealthy weight cutting and surprise advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately, that should be the goal." (Don't leave all the fighting to these ladies-here's why you should give MMA a try yourself.)
More women are fighting in the UFC than ever before, so it made sense to introduce a new weight division to allow them to compete on more levels. "Whenever you add a new weight division, everyone tries to cut down, it's a part of the sport. Fighters are always going to do that to make sure they have an advantage," Dana White, the founder and President of the UFC tells Shape. "But obviously the sport has grown for women and there are so many talented tactical fighters who've been screaming for the 125-pound division, so I figured it was time."
Ultimately, a lot of fighters will continue to cut weight if it puts them in a better position to win. Take Sijara Eubanks. The 32-year-old was actually set to take on Montano instead of Modafferi in the final episode of The Ultimate Fighter but was pulled from the fight last minute. The reason for her abrupt removal was her attempted weight cut that caused her to go into kidney failure and landed her in the hospital. Despite the health scare, Eubanks, who is naturally around 140 pounds, still plans to continue competing in the 125-pound division because she believes that's where she has the most advantage.
While Eubanks could lose five pounds and fight at bantamweight (135) or gain five pounds and compete as a featherweight (145), she chooses to fight in the flyweight (125) division. "I have a lot of professionals in my corner that look at my stature and my body and say that, 'Yes, you do have the frame to walk in the low '40s in a healthy way and you can cut to 125 in a healthy way,' " Eubanks recently said on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. "So if my body can physically walk at flyweight without doing damage to my health, then I'm a flyweight."
At the end of the day, weight cuts are a huge part of the MMA for both men and women. And while they pose serious health risks regardless (Joanna Jędrzejczyk can speak to that) bridging a 10-pound weight gap is a heck of a lot easier (and healthier) than trying to put on or take off 20 pounds.