LAS VEGAS – As he watched a group of 50 women try out for the “The Ultimate Fighter 18,” UFC President Dana White admitted he was impressed with the talent level of the fighters. And while his promotion currently employs only 135-pound women, White doesn’t believe that will always be the case.
“You would think so,” White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) when asked if he expected to add more women’s divisions to the UFC. “If you think about it, when we started this company, we had heavyweights, light heavyweights, middleweights and welterweights. That was it. When we brought in the 155-pound division, everybody was like, ‘This is crazy. They’re too small. Nobody will ever watch.’
“The evolution of this sport as it’s continued to grow, we’ve been adding weight classes, and the sport keeps getting bigger. There are more and more talented guys in all those weight classes. The same thing will happen with the women.”
To date, there have been just two women’s bouts in the UFC: February’s Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche bantamweight title fight and this past weekend’s No. 1 contender fight between Cat Zingano and former Strikeforce champ Miesha Tate. A handful of other women have already signed to the UFC’s roster, and “The Ultimate Fighter 18? will feature additional fighters hoping to score a UFC deal.
White believes the excitement surrounding the new division will inevitably lead to more women athletes competing in the sport – which in turn may very well lead to a need for more opportunities in the UFC.
“I think when you got into the 135-pound division, I knew there were enough fights for a year and a half, two years,” White said. “You think that after it starts to generate some excitement and interest that other women will pop out of the woodwork. … I think over the next couple of years, we’re really going to see a big boom.”
There are, of course, critics of the women’s game who wonder if the division has staying power or if it is simply a fad whose time will pass. Boxing aficionados point to their sport, which enjoyed a women’s boom in the 90s with fighters like Leila Ali, Christy Martin, Lucia Rijker and others but is no longer much of a draw.
White doesn’t believe his company will allow that to happen.
“I just think that this company is so different than boxing,” White said. “Women’s boxing blew up for a minute and then it just died and went away. We invest in the sport, and as long as we want women to stay, women will continue to thrive and grow.”
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(Pictured: Sean Shelby, Joe Silva and Dana White)