If I were to tell you there’s an MMA card today headlined by a Top 5 fighter changing weight classes to take on another Top 5 fighter in that new weight class you’d be forgiven into thinking I was referring to UFC 127’s main event between BJ Penn and Jon Fitch (and chastising me for forgetting BJ Penn already moved to Welterweight and blasted out Matt Hughes in a matter of seconds).
I’m actually talking about the headlining bout of Rosi Sexton vs Roxanne Modafferi at Cage Warriors 40 today from London England (on Setanta Sports in Ireland, and on a Free Stream from their site on a limited registration first come first serve basis – Click here for details on how to watch).
Unsurprisingly this weekend’s main focus is UFC and any event the same week of a UFC card (let alone the same day) is always going to suffer from comparatively limited coverage. However BAMMA 5, also in England today from the North West city of Manchester has Paul Daley on the card and there’s interest in if he can beat his opponent Yuya Shirai to ensure a title fight with Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz (although Daley missing weight yesterday may cause doubts about his ability to take a fight with Diaz regardless) where we’ll also see TUF star James McSweeney take on former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez who is making a come back – although also missed weight on an agreed 215lbs catch weight. Understandably this gets coverage for name value and what it could mean going forward this year into bigger promotions.
But then MFC got coverage as well this week with the biggest name on the card arguably being UFC vet Drew Fickett – a name for minor shows like Cage Rage 5 years ago perhaps, but today?
And yet Sexton vs Modafferi gets nothing. I know some will be quick to point out that MMA sites including Bloody Elbow rely as much on stories that can bring in visitors – we’ve all heard how gaga SBNation’s Luke Thomas gets when anything Brock Lesnar related happens – as much as their ability to provide information as close to real time as they can. Unless you’re Gina Carano, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (who had to smash Carano to get noticed), Sarah Kaufman (who had to publicly air her dirty laundry when it came to Strikeforce to get noticed) or Megumi Fujii (the Pound for Pound Queen of Women’s MMA possibly still even since her shock loss to Zoila Frausto) if you’re a Woman competing in MMA you just won’t get noticed. Even in the case of Fujii suffering her first professional loss after a 22 fight win streak not many knew she fought at the Sengoku end of year show in 2010 scoring a decision victory.
When male fighters take fights in different weight classes it’s either to explore new challenges, set up lucrative Super Fights or attempt to find a career resurgence after struggling or going on a skid. When fighters like Rosi Sexton and Roxanne Modafferi and many others jump between weight classes it’s often in order to just get a fight, let alone a competitive fight that provides valuable experience. Modafferi is dropping down from the 135lbs Bantamweight limit, Sexton last fought in the Bellator 115lbs Flyweight tournament and is moving back up to where they’ll meet at the 125lbs Super-Flyweight limit. This Yo-Yo’ing is often the norm for Womens MMA because of the few relative to to Men competing in the sport. Dana White has said himself he can’t see Women fighting in the UFC because of the shallow talent pool and not wanting to put on epic mismatches. Even then his interest would have been in the marketable Gina Carano only who before her loss to Cristiane Santos was the ‘face’ of Womens MMA largely due to her aesthetics then fighting ability. Even after nearly 2 years out of the sport, on her announced return the Strikeforce commentary team re-dubbed her the face of Women’s MMA, completely disrespecting Santos (and still champion) in the process. So much for wanting to showcase Womens MMA as a whole, Strikeforce.
Women’s MMA is in a Catch 22 situation, and coverage has to start somewhere. Women’s MMA is too small and niche to be covered in the same breath as men’s MMA, but growth of WMMA which like Men’s is reliant on the grass roots of the sport can’t be expected to flourish without any light shone upon it either. Very few sites offer rankings – the Bloody Elbow USA Today consensus rankings don’t bother – and the ones that do often can only just make a Top 10 list across 5 weight classes with 145lbs Feather Weight being the heaviest. It’s taken several years and persistence by a Zuffa run WEC to make people care about Feather Weight and below for Men’s MMA, Women’s MMA will be that much more of a struggle.
With that in mind I think it should be up to sites like Bloody Elbow and those in the SBNation MMA network to pioneer the coverage rather than shy away from it and maybe as a result can say we directly helped the sport we love to watch and talk about.
Cage Warriors 40 Sexton vs Modafferi is live today with Pre-lims starting at 7:45pm GMT / 14:45 Eastern / 11:45am Pacific and I’ll be live blogging the event on Bloody Elbow.
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