Following a weekend where three of the top pound for pound male fighters were seen in action, we have a bout with arguably the top two pound for pound female mixed martial artists on the planet immediately following. But is it getting the proper attention?
UFC 94 was a show that had been built up for months and was billed as an “Epic Battle of Champions” between B.J. Penn and Georges St-Pierre. Now, I can only speak for myself, but it definitely felt that way too. Dana White had three press conferences as soon as he announced the fight, first in Vegas, then Toronto and finally Honolulu. They also made a three part “UFC Primetime” series on the fight that was a real hit, and the media were all over it for the fact that it was two of the best ever about to collide in their primes.
Coming this weekend, we have a battle between the undefeated Gina “Conviction” Carano and her toughest opponent ever, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos. These two are the faces of women’s MMA and are well known by the hardcore MMA community as the best of the best, but some in the media may not be giving this long-awaited battle it’s due.
Flipping through the channels these days it is more and more likely that you will see the face of the former Muay Thai standout, Gina Carano. However, in watching an interview with her, you might not get the right picture as to who she really is. You might think she were a full-time model or a long-time “American Gladiator” or famous for an alleged sex tape with Kit Cope (that doesn’t exist). Thankfully, Gina took some time from her busy fight preparation schedule to clear some of that up.
In a recent interview with RawVegas.TV, Carano spoke on her promotional experiences of late, “You know, I’ve had to deal with a lot for this fight, and I look at people and I’m like, ‘Why don’t they realize this is like the toughest fight of my life?’ And they’re asking me like, you know sex questions and dating questions, and I’m like, ‘Do you have any idea like, what I’m actually going up against right now?’ You know, all that stuff isn’t even on my mind.”
With the fight only days away, Carano might be justifiably frustrated that the fight may not get the hype it deserves, but she is also making note of the fact that it has to do with the respect for female fighters as well, “It’s just crazy, you know, and I had somebody else tell me the other day, ‘You know Gina, it’s gonna be awhile before people take you guys seriously.’ I’m like, ‘What’s not serious about this? I’m stepping into the cage with an amazing athlete, like, you know things can go potentially really bad.”
Having seen many of the interviews she is referring to, it is clear to me that the female side of MMA has a long way to come to gain the type of respect that the men are given.
Is it because of the fact that the pool of top tier fighters is so small in comparison? Maybe so, but does that mean that the top two of the world’s elite are to not get the same respect as Royce Gracie did when he was facing men who were arguably of lesser skill? I don’t think so. You could argue that women’s MMA is further back in evolution when being compared to their male counterparts, but do we not remember the warriors and Champions of the early days of MMA as pioneers and legends that deserve our respect? Absolutely we do, even though those early days showed how much we didn’t know about fighting more than anything.
Gina experiences this lack of knowledge on a daily basis and as being arguably the most popular female MMA fighter, she understandably can get a little frustrated, “It just hurts my heart for the sport that its’ taken this long [for MMA in general], and now the women are trying to go through it.”
She remains optimistic however knowing that the respect will only continue to grow as the sport of MMA and she remains humble knowing that there are many great fighters that are out there right now and many will come after her, “I’m just one fighter. I’m just one female. I just happen to be one of the most recognizable ones out. But there is plenty other females, and women’s MMA is gonna be around if I’m a part of it or not.”
It is clear that there are many people trying to distract the young Carano leading up to her next fight, but she seems to be keeping it all in perspective leading into the undoubted war she will be in on Saturday night. “Everybody’s gotta give it up to Cris. She’s an amazing fighter and it’s really an honour to fight her, because she’s the best. She’s one of the best, and I know whoever is holding that belt at the end is gonna be a good belt holder regardless, and so that makes this fight really cool.” She continues, “I’ve sat down and I’ve watched tape. I’ve watched old tape and I’ve watched new tape and all I know is it’s gonna be a tough fight. I’ve got my game plans but I know anything can happen.”
Those who have followed women’s MMA know that this fight is the most anticipated in its history and likely have been waiting to see it happen for some time now, as I have. One thing is for sure, with all eyes on women’s MMA on Saturday night, I’m sure there couldn’t be two better representatives to go at it than these two. The fans will be treated to an “Epic Battle” of the best female MMA fighters on the planet.