Editor’s be aware: The primary girls’s combat in UFC historical past was on Feb. 23, 2013 when Ronda Rousey confronted Liz Carmouche. This has been up to date after initially working in December 2019.
Amanda Nunes was driving round Miami along with her then-girlfriend, Nina Ansaroff, searching for a bar. That they had simply watched teammates from American High Workforce compete in a kickboxing occasion and have been attempting to look at UFC 157.
The date was Feb. 23, 2013, and the principle occasion was historic as Ronda Rousey was combating Liz Carmouche within the first girls’s combat in UFC historical past. Just a few months earlier, Rousey, an undefeated star, was signed and awarded the UFC girls’s bantamweight title for her accomplishments in Strikeforce, a promotion the UFC bought in 2011. Rousey vs. Carmouche created some controversy as a result of it headlined the UFC pay-per-view in Anaheim, California, over Lyoto Machida vs. Dan Henderson, a bout between former MMA champions.
“For somebody new to come back in and have a free journey simply appears unfair to [Machida and Henderson] and the entire sport they helped construct,” Henderson’s placing coach, Gus Pugliese, mentioned on the time.
Nunes and Ansaroff, now engaged, made it to the bar with their teammates a bit late. They caught the tail finish of the cardboard and watched Rousey getting her hand raised after a profitable first title protection. Nunes was on the bar’s patio when she lastly noticed the replay of Rousey profitable by armbar. Girls’s MMA had existed for a few years, however this was its first time on the most important stage, in a UFC most important occasion in entrance of 13,257 at Honda Middle.
“That was wonderful to look at,” Nunes instructed ESPN. “We have been ready for that second, all of us. I really feel like after I noticed that second, we knew instantly that is gonna be enormous. As a result of that combat was enormous.”
When she noticed Rousey celebrating, Nunes, who was coming off a loss to Sarah D’Aleilio, had a couple of issues run throughout her thoughts. One was that she would quickly be signed by the UFC. Nunes had already fought for Strikeforce and Invicta FC, and was one of many higher Brazilian girls combating, residing and coaching in the US. “After I noticed that combat, the very first thing I believed is I am gonna kick [Rousey’s] ass,” Nunes mentioned. “That was the principle factor. However I used to be very comfortable concerning the second. It was an enormous second for all of us. However in that second, [I thought], I am gonna be the champion within the UFC. I am gonna beat her sooner or later.”
Nunes, 31, was proper on each counts. She received the UFC girls’s bantamweight title by choking out Miesha Tate at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016. In her first title protection, Nunes knocked out Rousey in simply 48 seconds at UFC 207 on Dec. 30, 2016. Since then, Nunes has continued her excellence, beating present UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and Raquel Pennington and knocking out luminaries Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm.
“I knew sooner or later it is gonna come, my second,” Nunes mentioned. “We’re right here now.” Nunes, together with many others within the MMA neighborhood, discovered inspiration from that combat, and the fighters.
Carmouche was released by the UFC, however her legacy stays.
“I by no means thought for a second that I might have any impression shaping girls’s MMA as we all know it. I nonetheless cannot totally grasp that I had a hand in it,” Carmouche mentioned. “It is an enormous honor to be part of MMA historical past and significantly as a pioneer for girls.”
Girls competing within the UFC is probably the most important story of the previous decade in blended martial arts and Rousey vs. Carmouche began all of it. ESPN requested a number of of the highest feminine stars within the sport to replicate on that combat and its affect on their lives and careers.
Editor’s be aware: All interviews have been performed previous to Carmouche’s launch.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk, former UFC strawweight champion
I keep in mind that combat. I used to be very excited, and I began believing in myself much more. I felt something and every thing is feasible. Girls’s MMA can get as massive as guys’. I noticed a lightweight within the tunnel that something is feasible — if Ronda Rousey could make it, all of us can do it. It was positively an incredible second.
On the time, I used to be in Poland. It was tough to look at in Poland, as a result of we did not have UFC on Polish TV channels. I bear in mind I watched some stream or it was a spotlight. After all, I heard it was a giant factor and large success for girls’s MMA, Ronda Rousey and the UFC. I watched the replay many occasions. I met Ronda later and watched all of her fights. I bear in mind earlier than my combat with Carla Esparza in 2015, I watched Ronda Rousey combat stay. It was in L.A. at Staples Middle [UFC 184 against Cat Zingano]. It was wonderful. She was doing this time and again — beating folks, smashing folks within the first spherical. It was wonderful.
After I look again, it was a giant combat for us. For not solely girls in MMA, however for the UFC and for all of us. Due to Ronda Rousey, my life modified. Ronda Rousey introduced girls’s MMA to a mainstream stage. That is wonderful.
Zhang Weili, UFC girls’s strawweight champion
Via an interpreter: I used to be working in a fitness center on the time, however the video was very talked-about within the combating circle. I watched it on my cell phone within the fitness center [in my home country of China]. Ronda’s recreation attracted worldwide consideration on the time, and she or he felt incomparable. Girls will be pretty much as good as males — even higher. At the moment I had a sense that I belonged in that Octagon cage, and I additionally wished to be like Ronda.
This sport modified every thing for me. I realized lots from MMA. I realized to be tolerant, robust and courageous. These are crucial in life. Profitable the championship additionally modified my life. Stars and celebrities that I would beforehand solely seen on TV, now are buddies. I believe it is a fantastic factor to work laborious to satisfy my dream.
Valentina Shevchenko, UFC girls’s flyweight champion
When it occurred, I did not watch it. Most likely, I used to be making ready for a few of my Muay Thai competitions. It was a giant occasion for feminine MMA. That is why I believe all folks, all martial arts folks knew it was occurring.
I might not say it modified one thing for me. However I believe it was when occasions come, they arrive. I believe that was the suitable time and place for females within the UFC. After all, the 2 women have been from the USA, and so they had a much bigger probability to get within the UFC than different women combating for far more years in different nations. It was time to make it occur, and it occurred. All the things began from that second and goes because it ought to go.
It was not one thing like the primary feminine combat ever in blended martial arts. Everywhere in the world, already there have been fights. There was a combat with Cris Cyborg and Gina Carano [in 2009]. It was like one other push from a much bigger stage and the most important stage of the UFC.
Cris Cyborg, former UFC girls’s featherweight champion, now with Bellator
I bear in mind the UFC gave Ronda the group’s belt at a press convention, and by some means she had by no means fought within the UFC earlier than however was defending her belt in her first UFC combat. I discovered it loopy as a result of, after [then-Strikeforce president Scott] Coker made the primary world title combat in WMMA with Carano vs. Cyborg, [UFC president] Dana [White] was saying he would by no means promote girls fighters. However all of the sudden he was totally in a relationship with Ronda the place he tried to guard her for so long as doable with out impartial rankings and thru selective matchmaking.
Girls modified the fan base. When males go to the fights, they carry their ingesting buddy. When girls go to the fights, they carry their daughter, son, husband, grandparents. They make it a household occasion, which helped change the best way folks have a look at the game. Now girls followers are the quickest rising and most desired demographic within the sport, and it is because we got a good probability to compete.
Michelle Waterson, UFC strawweight contender
I used to be there stay. On the time, there was just one division [in the UFC] opened up for the women. I bear in mind being excited however on the similar time a bit envious. It was an entertaining combat, and I used to be happy with each women for laying all of it out on the road. I knew it was the start of a brand new period.
Paige VanZant, former UFC strawweight and flyweight at the moment with Naked Knuckle Combating Championship
I bear in mind assembly Liz at my Invicta debut and the way good she was. At the moment, I by no means imagined that I would be competing on the identical stage as her. It was a extremely massive deal for girls to be combating within the UFC.
As a result of Ronda and Liz placed on such an incredible, gifted and technical combat, folks lastly realized how good girls have been at combating and it was one thing that they need to get behind. Not solely was this the combat that made folks enthusiastic about girls combating, however I believe it modified the course of MMA historical past eternally. Having girls in MMA makes it appear much less barbaric and violent. Ronda and Liz confirmed it may be technical, sleek and really thrilling.
Ilima-Lei MacFarlane, former Bellator flyweight champion
There was a man convincing me to hitch his fitness center [San Diego Combat Academy] in 2013. He was like, “It is the fitness center with Liz Carmouche.” I used to be like, “Who’s that?” Then he defined who she was. He mentioned, “She’s the one who fought Ronda Rousey.” And that is after I noticed the combat. I used to be like, “Oh, s—.”
I used to be terrified to coach with [Carmouche]. I did not wish to prepare along with her, however I needed to. I am like, “Holy f—, they need me to be this woman’s coaching associate?” I wrestled in highschool. What do they count on? I had by no means thrown a punch in my life earlier than. Like, “Oh, you need me to coach along with her? OK.”
I do know that with out that combat I in all probability would not be within the place I am in at the moment. So, it positively modified my life. Right here I used to be simply strolling right into a fitness center eager to reduce weight and standing throughout from Liz Carmouche, who was the primary girls’s fighter within the UFC. Her and Ronda each made it doable for girls who wished to combat to achieve that stage of stardom and that stage of fame. On the time, I did not comprehend it.
Katlyn Chookagian, UFC girls’s flyweight contender
I did not even have an novice MMA combat when that occurred. I had a bunch of boxing, kickboxing fights. Jiu-jitsu and every thing. I knew I wished to do MMA, I used to be coaching it. At that time, I used to be like, “Wow, that is like fairly loopy.” I knew I wished to do that, however I did not consider it like a occupation. I believed it could simply be a pastime. I had simply completed school, and I used to be like, I am gonna prepare for slightly, for 2 years see the place I am at after which see if I wanted to get an actual job or I may maintain bartending and combating.
That was like the primary combat the place it was like, “Wait, I would be capable to like actually do that.” Then it was like the subsequent combat and each combat Ronda had, I used to be like, “Oh, wait, I may be really capable of like make this a profession.” It was type of cool the change of it. I obtained in proper on the proper time. I do know some girls I skilled with that have been possibly 5, six, seven years older than me, they only missed it. I really feel so dangerous for them.
Kayla Harrison, PFL girls’s light-weight fighter/former two-time Olympic judo champion
I wasn’t actually centered on MMA at the moment in my life. I actually simply watched it, as a result of Ronda was my bud. I additionally did not perceive the ripple impact and the importance of the second. I grew up in a sport [judo] that was utterly equal. Women and men have the very same weight lessons, receives a commission the very same. Put on the identical uniforms. Have the identical period of time of their matches. All the things was at all times equal to me. The truth that girls weren’t in a company, that by no means even occurred to my ignorant mind. I did not perceive how massive of a deal it was.
However now, oh my god, are you kidding me? Ronda was the proper particular person within the good place on the good time. If she hadn’t been round and she or he hadn’t accomplished what she did, I might in all probability be — I do not know. I would not be doing MMA, that is for certain. She opened up the door for girls like me. She did not even open it — she kicked that s— down.