Tag Archive for Divisions

Scott Coker: Bellator to ‘Keep That Door Open’ for Future Tournaments in Other Divisions

Before Scott Coker took over the helm, Bellator MMA was best known for holding “The Toughest Tournament in Sports.”
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Click Debate: Is it time for the UFC to add two new women’s divisions?

Women’s MMA has been a home run for the UFC. There’s no overstating it.

In July, the promotion put on an historic six events. Half of those were headlined by important women’s fights.

The biggest mainstream star in UFC history — Ronda Rousey — is a woman. Two of the most dominant, exciting athletes in the company are women: Cris Cyborg and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. And there are plenty of marketable, bankable female stars all over the roster, from Holly Holm and Miesha Tate to Paige VanZant and Claudia Gadelha.

It has gotten to the point where men’s and women’s fights are just about interchangeable. The vast majority of the fanbase gets just as pumped for a heavily hyped, high-level women’s bout as it does a fight between two males.

That is an absolute credit to the UFC, which has had the foresight to put women on the same platform, going back to UFC 157 in 2013 when Rousey ushered in women’s MMA against Liz Carmouche. Perhaps only in tennis can it be said that there is as much interest in the women’s side of things as the men’s side.

Now, nearly four years after women began fighting in the UFC, its time to usher in a new era. It’s time for expansion.

The UFC needs to add female weight classes at 145 and 125 pounds. It can be slowly at first. There doesn’t need to be a champion right away. But the women on the roster, and those coming from other promotions, should have the option to compete at a natural weight class. That’s what divisions have always been meant for.

Cyborg is, of course, the prime example. There’s just no reason for the UFC to keep asking her to cut to 140 pounds to take essentially meaningless fights. Not only is she maybe the best women’s fighter to ever grace the cage, she is a draw. A headliner. Maybe she’ll never sell as many pay-per-views or get any big Hollywood movie roles like Ronda Rousey. But fans want to see her fight.

Bring her 145-pound division into the UFC and a 125-pound division along with it. Hey, you can even debut them using The Ultimate Fighter, like the way the UFC did with the 135 and 115 divisions. Those shows — TUF 18 and TUF 20 — featured top fighters from new women’s divisions and did some of the best TUF ratings since the move over to Fox Sports 1.

Critics will say that there isn’t enough talent to sustain those divisions, especially at 145. And a 125-pound division could thin out 135 and 115. Those critics are not necessarily wrong. Cyborg’s featherweight division is not particularly strong and most of the good fighters there she has already decimated. It’s hard to find opponents for her, period.

These are legitimate concerns. The UFC has built all of their divisions very well. It’s a painstaking process done by matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby. They have a plan and they execute it. The 115-pound women’s division, in particular, has been matched beautifully by Shelby, funneling legitimate, marketable contenders toward champion Jedrzejczyk.

Maybe women’s divisions at 145 and 125 don’t have to be full divisions right away. There’s another real issue about more divisions and more fighters being added to a finite amount of spots and fights. But shouldn’t Cyborg have the option to fight some opponents at her natural weight class, without nearly killing herself to get down to an arbitrary 140-pound limit? Shouldn’t a solid veteran like Valerie Letourneau not have to choose between completely depleting herself to make 115 or being completely undersized at 135?

Letourneau vs. Joanne Calderwood was one of the best women’s fights of the year in the UFC. It just so happened to be the only 125-pound fight in promotion history. Calderwood, who has a huge fan base and is exceedingly likable, is just a different, better fighter at 125 compared to what she is at 115. There should be a place for her and others like her — Letourneau, Justine Kish, Nina Ansaroff, Liz Carmouche, etc. — to be at their best.

Plus, there’s a host of potential stars at 125 pounds in other organizations. Barb Honchak is the best in the world in the flyweight division and she was just relieved of her title by Invicta. Current Invicta champ Jennifer Maia always puts on exciting fights and Andrea Lee, Racheel Ostovich and Vanessa Porto are just a few other interesting names to add into the mix. Plus, 125 pounds is probably a more natural weight for top fighters like Jedrzejczyk and Valentina Shevchenko.

“A lot of these girls at 115 have a hard time making that weight, so it would be better if they could just fight at a more natural weight class,” bantamweight Julianna Pena told me during UFC 200 week. “Same with girls at 135 pounds. They can come down in weight to 125 as opposed to fighting bigger girls who walk around [much heavier].”

Featherweight would be far more challenging, because the talent at heavier weights in women’s divisions tends to thin out. There are a few intriguing names in Invicta, like Megan Anderson, but maybe 145 pounds becomes something like a see-who-can-beat-Cyborg sweepstakes. That’s kind of like what’s going on now at 140, only this would be at a much healthier weight for Cyborg. Those from the 135-pound division who want to try their luck against someone the stature of Cyborg can. Same as those who fight at 145 elsewhere.

Maybe it wouldn’t be a full division, but people would watch. I think this year has proven more than ever that weight classes, in the sporting sense, don’t matter that much to fans. Conor McGregor was the UFC featherweight champion when he fought Nate Diaz, a lightweight contender, twice at welterweight. And those just happened to be perhaps the biggest fights in UFC history. Nobody seemed to care that the fight was at 170 pounds.

On top of all that, the UFC adding new divisions will draw people to those divisions from outside organizations. The UFC is the big leagues. It’s where the money is. There are already fighters at 125 and 105 in Invicta talking about changing divisions to fight in the UFC. If you build it, they will come.

Talking to nutrition coach George Lockhart about Cyborg’s inhumane, unnecessary weight cut this week got me thinking more and more about new women’s divisions. The one thing Lockhart said over and over was how much tougher it was for women to cut weight than men, because their hormones change throughout the month.

“Certain times of the month, your body burns carbohydrates as a means of fuel,” Lockhart said. “Certain times of the month, your body burns fat. … It changes throughout the month. Whereas a dude, we’re the same all month long. We eat right, we work out, the [weight] goes down. That’s just the way it is. With women, hell no.”

The UFC is not a charity, of course. And the organization can do what it wants with its weight class. Keeping only two women’s divisions is well within its rights. From a business standpoint, maybe that’s the right call and it’s understandable. The UFC is a business, after all, and it has done OK for itself — to the tune of a $ 4 billion purchase in July to talent agency giant WME-IMG.

But it’s hard to imagine something like this hurting the UFC’s bottomline. Adding another champion at 125, one that can headline shows, isn’t the worst thing in the world. Having a healthy, devastating Cyborg as a headliner, in Brazil or wherever else, is a very nice thing.

On top of that, weight classes in general were never supposed to be marketing tools. Their addition to MMA was for regulatory reasons. It’s a safety issue. This applies here, too.

Maybe the health of the current women’s divisions would be negatively affected by adding 145 and 125. But shouldn’t the health of the actual human beings competing take top priority?

Fighters take enough punishment in the Octagon and the training room. That should not extend to weight cuts, too.

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Titan FC Signs Jessica Aguilar as Matchmaker for New Women’s Divisions

Florida-based MMA promotion Titan Fighting Championship has signed UFC and Bellator veteran Jessica Aguilar to handle matchmaking duties for its newly-minted women’s divisions.
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Titan FC Signs Jessica Aguilar as Matchmaker for New Women’s Divisions

Florida-based MMA promotion Titan Fighting Championship has signed UFC and Bellator veteran Jessica Aguilar to handle matchmaking duties for its newly-minted women’s divisions.
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Titan FC Signs Jessica Aguilar as Matchmaker for New Women’s Divisions

Florida-based MMA promotion Titan Fighting Championship has signed UFC and Bellator veteran Jessica Aguilar to handle matchmaking duties for its newly-minted women’s divisions.
Recent News on Sherdog.com

Titan FC Signs Jessica Aguilar as Matchmaker for New Women’s Divisions

Florida-based MMA promotion Titan Fighting Championship has signed UFC and Bellator veteran Jessica Aguilar to handle matchmaking duties for its newly-minted women’s divisions.
Recent News on Sherdog.com

Conor McGregor: The Featherweight Division’s MVP

Mixed martial arts has long passed the point where it must struggle to survive. Thanks to the efforts of the UFC, and countless other promotions who sacrificed blood, sweat and capital to make a mark in the landscape, fighting in the cage is here to stay. But while MMA won’t be dying anytime soon, it […]

The post Conor McGregor: The Featherweight Division’s MVP appeared first on Caged Insider.

Caged Insider

Eddie Bravo Invitational 2 Set for Oct. 10, Will Feature 135- and 155-Pound Divisions

Following the success of the inaugural Eddie Bravo Invitational, the 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu creator has announced that the Eddie Bravo Invitational 2 will take place on Oct. 10 in Hollywood, Calif.
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Invicta FC’s Shannon Knapp ‘thinks it’s great’ UFC is expanding women’s divisions

The last time Invicta FC held a card was nearly five months ago, when Cristiane Santos fought Marloes Coenen in Kansas City. A lot has happened since July. The UFC’s long-running franchise The Ultimate Fighter has aired in its entirety, featuring a fresh crop of women bantamweights, as well as women head coaches (champion Ronda Rousey and challenger Miesha Tate). Not only that, but UFC president Dana White has made public the intention of adding a strawweight division (115 pounds), and the TUF 18 Finale main card was carried by three women’s bouts. 

In other words, women’s MMA in general has been flourishing just as women’s MMA’s spiritual hub, Invicta FC, was in between shows. Why was there such a gap for the year-and-a-half old promotion between Invicta 6 and Invicta 7, which takes place at the Ameristar Casino in K.C. on Dec. 7?

Invicta FC president Shannon Knapp appeared on Monday’s edition of the MMA Hour to talk about it.

“Normally we would go October, November, but it just got so congested with dates,” Knapp told host Ariel Helwani. “We were going to go with Nov. 2, and then Bellator was going to do a pay-per-view, and we certainly didn’t want to counter program that. And so we just waited for the right opening, and it happened to be Dec. 7.”

Otherwise, Knapp said, there was internal strife that the company was dealing with between herself and business partner/matchmaker, Janet Martin.

“Janet Martin is no longer with Invicta, so there were a lot of things that were going on and — I like to do good business, that’s what I call it — and I just needed to get a better footing before we stepped forward.”

Knapp described the partnership as a “very bad situation” and a “mess,” but didn’t get into particulars. What she did say, though, was that her role as the company’s president — and sole owner, operating without financial backers — has broadened in Martin’s absence to be the matchmaker as well.

“I’m certainly going to look to fill that role, but this card was already set and there was no sense in bringing somebody in right now,” she said. “I’d like to take the time and be selective of who that person will be.”

Invicta FC 7 will feature three title fights, headlined by Barb Honchak and the ever-game Leslie Smith for the flyweight crown. Also fighting on the card will be Lauren Murphy and Miriam Nakamoto, with the inaugural bantamweight title hanging in the balance. And Knapp said that even though strawweight champion Carla Esparza’s grandmother died this past week, which has taken an emotional toll on her, she’ll still defend her belt against Brazil’s Claudia Gadelha.

The card will be a pay-per-view event as of right now online, though Knapp said she and DirecTV are working through a scheduling conflict — similar to the last time, when DirecTV had to do some maneuvering to make it work.

As far as the all-female promotion appearing on free TV, perhaps as early as its next show, Knapp said that there is an “offer,” though she wouldn’t divulge details.

“There are a few doors that have recently opened, more than they were before, so I am optimistic — very optimistic,” she said. 

One of the issues surrounding Invicta, which differentiated itself in the MMA game by being exclusively female, is the UFC’s new commitment to women’s MMA. Now that there’s a viable bantamweight division in the UFC, and a strawweight division on the horizon, some worry that the UFC will corner the market.

Does Knapp worry about losing her current roster, or potential future fighters down the line, to the biggest show in town — even though the idea was to be a platform for greater opportunity to begin with? Is it a double-edged sword?

“It depends on how you want to view something, period — you can find negatives or you can find positives,” she said. “For me I think it’s a positive on many levels because it really solidifies and says to me that what we’re doing here is making a difference, and that’s always been my commitment and my goal in building Invicta. So I think it’s great.

“[The UFC] can give more exposure to the athletes than I can right at this moment, and I think any exposure right now that the athletes are getting is huge for the athletes and Invicta. So, for a lack of better way of saying it, I don’t mind riding their coattail, and vice-versa, right?”

Knapp said that she’s not overly worried about ceding talent to the UFC, particularly in the now coveted strawweight division, in part because her fighters are under contract and don’t have UFC outs (contrary to popular belief).

“Second, there’s so much talent out there in that division,” she said. “Even if every one of my girls goes to the UFC the thing is that, I have more opportunity to build stars quicker because we are all female, and they do tend to fight a little more frequently, I guess. So I don’t worry about it. You have all of this new young talent coming in, I call them ‘the hybrids.’ They’re really performing, so I’m excited in aspects to continue to sign new talent and to keep pushing forward.”

Knapp said that the next installment, Invicta 8, will likely be held in February.

Meanwhile, Invicta 7 — in which Miesha Tate will work as a guess analyst alongside Muhammad Lawal and Michael Schiavello — goes down Dec. 7 as an online PPV ($ 14.95) at invictafc.com.

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The Milwaukee Mess: In the UFC’s Lightweight and Featherweight Divisions, Everyone Wants to Fight Each Other But No Match Ups Are Clear

(Admit it — you completely forgot about this guy. / Photo via MMAJunkie)

By Elias Cepeda

After ripping the lightweight world title away from Benson Henderson this past Saturday at UFC 164, Anthony Pettis immediately called out dominant featherweight champion Jose Aldo in the Octagon. The two have “unfinished business,” Pettis said.

Indeed they do. Pettis was supposed to drop down in weight and challenge Aldo for his belt a month ago, but injured his knee and pulled out of the fight. Then, when #1 lightweight contender T.J. Grant got concussed in training and had to pull out of his UFC 164 fight against Henderson, Pettis filled in for him.

The rest is history…as well as an exciting mess of future match-up possibilities. Just days after the lightweight division was shaken up by Pettis’ armbar win, every one seems to be calling out everyone else, but some how no one’s interests are quite matching up yet.

After UFC 164 and Pettis’ call out of Aldo, the featherweight’s manager and coach, Andre Pederneiras tweeted in Portuguese, “I believe now we will see Pettis returning his lightweight belt and moving down to fight Aldo at 145 [pounds],” according to MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz.

“We were not the ones who left the fight in Rio, and I want to see [Pettis] make 145. This fight will happen, don’t worry. We just want equal rights to the Brazilians,” he went on.

UFC President Dana White immediately reacted to Pederneiras at the post event press conference. “They are going to fight,” White said.

“I’ve known Andre for years. But when you come out and make a statement like that, you make it look like (Aldo) is afraid. And that might not be Aldo’s same opinion. It makes it look like he’s afraid of Anthony Pettis, which already gives Anthony Pettis an advantage.”

Aldo himself went on the record with Brazilian TV show Planeta Nocaute, asserted that he is not afraid of Pettis or anyone else and defended his manager/coach’s statements. “I can fight Cain Velasquez if they want,” Cruz translates and reports.

It seems that Aldo and his camp are upset at having the tables turned on them. They say that White promised him a shot at the lightweight championship if he were to beat Pettis in their originally scheduled UFc 163 bout in Brazil a month ago.

“[Andre] is absolutely right,” Aldo said. “They forced us to do something and Andre wants something in return. I agree with everything Andre says, and I can fight anyone. Sometimes Dana says things that you better not pay attention. (Dana) knows he promised us things and he knows he has to give us, so that’s why he says those things. We’ll see what happens.”

Of course, Aldo would take offense to insinuations that he is scared to fight anyone but it is strange for him to insist on Pettis coming down in weight in order to fight. If Pettis wants to fight Aldo, and Aldo comes up, he can get the title shot he says White promised him without risking his own featherweight belt as he originally had to do first.

In any case, a fellow named T.J. Grant (you know, the lightweight division’s #1 contender?) isn’t too happy to have been taken out of the equation so summarily. He says that his concussion recovery is coming along well and that he’d be ready to fight in late December or at any point from January onward.

When he does return, Grant says that he deserves to fight Pettis next, though he understands the appeal of an Aldo/Pettis super fight. “I’m a fan,” Grant admitted to MMA Fighting. “I love watching UFC fights. I watch all of them, whether they’re people I’m potentially fighting or not, I enjoy it. Pettis against Aldo is an exciting fight.”

“But, hey, I just won my last fight in two minutes. I knocked [Gray Maynard] out. I knocked the guy out before that [Matt Wiman]. I feel like I’ve earned it. I feel like I’m the guy. I’ve been in the UFC a long time. I’ve never really gotten the push that I feel like I need but I’ve also built a lot of experience in fighting and haven’t been in the spotlight, which is nice too. But I’m ready to be there and I’m ready to go out there. Give me the opportunity man. I feel like I’ve earned it.”

And, as Grant points out, Aldo is injured right now anyway with a broken foot and won’t be able to fight for quite a long time. Thing is, Pettis also injured his knee during his brief fight against Henderson.

As of now, the extent of the new champion’s injury is not known or has not been revealed. If his required recovery time coincides with Aldo’s, then Grant really could be the odd man out for awhile.

If that’s the case, Grant has two other guys in mind to fight — Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson. Thomson has called out Grant and T.J. says that he’s been a fan of Melendez for years.

“I’m not specifically calling them out,” he specified. “I want a healthy Pettis, and I want a healthy me, and I want us to get in there and do battle.”

Which fight are you rooting for, nation? Aldo vs. Pettis? If so, what weight? Any underdog fans really want to see Grant get in there first? Personally, this writer is eagerly awaiting Cain Velasquez’s response to Aldo’s challenge. I think Aldo could beat up the heavyweight champ’s legs a bit and maybe land a knee before Velasquez eats him.