Is It Too Late For the UFC to Get Serious About the Women's Featherweight Division?
At UFC 214 in Anaheim, California, Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino finally captured the one piece of hardware that had eluded her for her twelve-year career: a UFC title belt. Cyborg has long been touted as the best Featherweight on the planet for many years as well as the baddest woman on the planet while she has held and defended world titles in both Strikeforce and Invicta FC. It was only until recently this year that the Ultimate Fighting Championship decided to open up their third female weight class...but did they wait just a little too long?
When the UFC decided to create their women's Featherweight division, it was already after Cris Cyborg had fought twice in 140 lb Catchweight bouts. Expected by everyone to be in the inaugural title fight...Cyborg declined the offers as she required more time to recover from her brutal weight cuts. The UFC decided not to wait for her and put former UFC Bantamweight champion, Holly Holm vs decorated Muay Thai striker and UFC/Strikeforce vet, Germaine de Randamie as the UFC 208 headliner, giving either lady the opportunity to make history.
Regardless of the outcome and the turmoil that followed, both Holm and de Randamie were Bantamweight fighters and the only other fighters who now competed at Featherweight outside of Cyborg that were in the UFC. By this time, Bellator had already snatched up a majority of legitimate 145ers including former Strikeforce champion, Marloes Coenen along with their current champion and #2 ranked worldwide in the division, Julia Budd. Since Holm and de Randamie are now back at Bantamweight...and recent UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger will be going back down as well, as it stands right now, Bellator has five and a half times more fighters on their roster than the UFC does. Which...still isn't a lot considering the UFC have two...but that's damn sure a lot better than only two fighters in your division.
Yes, it has been said for quite some time that the shallowest division in MMA is most likely the women's Featherweight division. But that's no excuse for the UFC to have dropped the ball as hard as they have to this point. They've had Cyborg under contract for over two years now yet waited until just last month to make only their SECOND signing of a legitimate 145er in Invicta FC Champion, Megan Anderson. Which brings me to Invicta, an organization that has a partnership with the UFC thus being how the UFC was able to pull up Anderson and Evinger so easily as well as many other fighters in the past. Invicta has the other deepest roster of 145ers along with Bellator. You're not going to find another group else where. The UFC literally has a full division that it can absorb at any moment yet has not for what ever reason. A move...or lack there of...that has left many fans and fighters confused and questioning the UFC's commitment to the division all while letting their main competitor(Bellator) get the upper hand on something once more.
Even when the UFC had a possible Featherweight contender brought on over, they signed her as a Bantamweight...despite the fact she was more than willing to compete at 145. Why? Who knows. Then last week they release her after only one fight. Yes, Cindy Dandois has an incredibly large hole in her game with her striking, but she still fought a very close fight in her only UFC bout with Alexis Davis and has proven how legit her ground skills are at both 135 and 145 lbs. Not even giving her a fight at Featherweight is just a big time head scratcher. I guess it could be the new era we're in that just cares about "standing and banging" and super fights that could be a little to blame...but even then. How the UFC has managed their women's 145 lb weight class has been every bit of unpredictable along the way. Even now, there is talk of Cyborg's first UFC title defense coming against Holly Holm who lost her only fight at Featherweight and is 1-3 in her last 4 with her last fight being at Bantamweight. Even though they now have another real Featherweight in Megan Anderson apart of the roster.
At the current rate, and how things appear to be going...Cyborg will just defend against the back of the Bantamweight's top 10 since the girls at the very top have no reason to move up since they're working towards the title in the division they already participate in. Something that really hurts the Bantamweight division as they will be losing fighters to an above division and not to mention with the arrival of the women's 125 lb Flyweight division they will be losing fighters down a division too. There's just no sense left to be made here when it comes to the UFC's female Featherweight plans and it just might be too late for it too.
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