As it usually happens in many sports, women have been for a long while out of the scope of professional organizations and this was no different in the MMA universe, even though there were several female athletes interested and training for amateur competitions around the world since the beginning of the sport. However, we could say the time when women really got a spot and a chance for the competition happened almost 10 years after the first professional match in USA.
Japan is often offering many different streams of MMA as well as differentiated set of rules, so it was no surprise the first competition held specially for women happened there in the mid ’90s in a series of amateur events. Only around 1999 they would have an official organization promoting contests, championship and professional matches for women, the so-called Smackgirl, which would originate a competition of the same name. However, the first championship held by Smackgirl happened only in 2001.
The matches there were strongly oriented by kickboxing and professional wrestling. With the success of the championship, male-led oriented organizations in Japan started to also organize female-only editions. The fame was spreading around the MMA scene worldwide and it finally reached USA in the mid ’00s.
The Fame in America
One of the first organizations to get interested in the organization of female-oriented matches in USA was the now terminated EliteXC organization. They made quite popular the fighter Gina Carano, which is today considered the face of the female competition. EliteXC held events between 2006 and 2008, and during this time other organizations started to mimic the success, like Bellator and especially, Strikeforce.
The last one would be responsible for an outcome closer to the mainstream MMA for women when the Zuffa organization, owner of the UFC championship, bought the company and merged their female championship as a UFC original one. The first original match with female fighters held by UFC happened in 2011.
Unfortunately earlier than that would show up the first exclusively female organization of MMA in USA, the Invicta Fighting Championship where many famous names today of the sport have been fighting, like Christiane Justino and Barb Honchak. Though the championship for women is rising late, it is just getting stronger and steadier and surely showing great and unmissable female talents.