Editor’s notice: The first ladies’s struggle in UFC historical past was on Feb. 23, 2013, when Ronda Rousey confronted Liz Carmouche. This story has been up to date after initially being printed in December 2019.
Amanda Nunes was driving round Miami along with her then-girlfriend, Nina Ansaroff, on the lookout for a bar. They had simply watched teammates from American Top Team compete in a kickboxing occasion and had been attempting to look at UFC 157.
The date was Feb. 23, 2013, and the principle occasion was historic as Ronda Rousey was combating Liz Carmouche within the first ladies’s struggle in UFC historical past. A number of months earlier, Rousey, an undefeated star, was signed and awarded the UFC ladies’s bantamweight title for her accomplishments in Strikeforce, a promotion the UFC bought in 2011. Rousey vs. Carmouche created some controversy as a result of it headlined the UFC pay-per-view in Anaheim, California, over Lyoto Machida vs. Dan Henderson, a bout between former MMA champions.
“For someone new to come in and have a free ride just seems unfair to [Machida and Henderson] and the whole sport they helped build,” Henderson’s hanging coach, Gus Pugliese, stated on the time.
Nunes and Ansaroff, now engaged, made it to the bar with their teammates a bit late. They caught the tail finish of the cardboard and watched Rousey getting her hand raised after a profitable first title protection. Nunes was on the bar’s patio when she lastly noticed the replay of Rousey successful by armbar. Women’s MMA had existed for a few years, however this was its first time on the most important stage, in a UFC predominant occasion in entrance of 13,257 at Honda Center.
“That was amazing to watch,” Nunes instructed ESPN. “We were waiting for that moment, all of us. I feel like when I saw that moment, we knew right away this is gonna be huge. Because that fight was huge.”
When she noticed Rousey celebrating, Nunes, who was coming off a loss to Sarah D’Alelio, had just a few issues run throughout her thoughts. One was that she would quickly be signed by the UFC. Nunes had already fought for Strikeforce and Invicta FC, and was one of many higher Brazilian ladies combating, residing and coaching within the United States. “When I saw that fight, the first thing I thought is I’m gonna kick [Rousey’s] ass,” Nunes stated. “That was the main thing. But I was very happy about the moment. It was a huge moment for all of us. But in that moment, [I thought], I’m gonna be the champion in the UFC. I’m gonna beat her in the future.”
Nunes, 31, was proper on each counts. She gained the UFC ladies’s bantamweight title by choking out Miesha Tate at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016. In her first title protection, Nunes knocked out Rousey in simply 48 seconds at UFC 207 on Dec. 30, 2016. Since then, Nunes has continued her excellence, beating present UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and Raquel Pennington and knocking out luminaries Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm.
“I knew one day it’s gonna come, my moment,” Nunes stated. “We’re here now.” Nunes, together with many others within the MMA neighborhood, discovered inspiration from that struggle, and the fighters.
Carmouche was released by the UFC, however her legacy stays.
“I never thought for a second that I would have any impact shaping women’s MMA as we know it. I still can’t fully grasp that I had a hand in it,” Carmouche stated. “It’s a huge honor to be a part of MMA history and particularly as a pioneer for women.”
Women competing within the UFC is probably the most important story of the previous decade in combined martial arts and Rousey vs. Carmouche began all of it. ESPN requested a number of of the highest feminine stars within the sport to mirror on that struggle and its affect on their lives and careers.
Editor’s notice: All interviews had been performed previous to Carmouche’s launch.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk, former UFC strawweight champion
I keep in mind that struggle. I used to be very excited, and I began believing in myself much more. I felt something and the whole lot is feasible. Women’s MMA can get as massive as guys’. I noticed a light-weight within the tunnel that something is feasible — if Ronda Rousey could make it, all of us can do it. It was positively a tremendous second.
At the time, I used to be in Poland. It was troublesome to look at in Poland, as a result of we did not have UFC on Polish TV channels. I bear in mind I watched some stream or it was a spotlight. Of course, I heard it was an enormous factor and massive success for ladies’s MMA, Ronda Rousey and the UFC. I watched the replay many occasions. I met Ronda later and watched all of her fights. I bear in mind earlier than my struggle with Carla Esparza in 2015, I watched Ronda Rousey struggle stay. It was in L.A. at Staples Center [UFC 184 against Cat Zingano]. It was superb. She was doing this over and over once more — beating folks, smashing folks within the first spherical. It was superb.
When I look again, it was an enormous struggle for us. For not solely ladies in MMA, however for the UFC and for all of us. Because of Ronda Rousey, my life modified. Ronda Rousey introduced ladies’s MMA to a mainstream degree. That’s superb.
Zhang Weili, UFC ladies’s strawweight champion
Through an interpreter: I used to be working in a fitness center on the time, however the video was very talked-about within the combating circle. I watched it on my cell phone within the fitness center [in my home country of China]. Ronda’s recreation attracted worldwide consideration on the time, and she felt incomparable. Women might be pretty much as good as males — even higher. At that point I had a sense that I belonged in that Octagon cage, and I additionally wished to be like Ronda.
This sport modified the whole lot for me. I realized loads from MMA. I realized to be tolerant, sturdy and courageous. These are essential in life. Winning the championship additionally modified my life. Stars and celebrities that I’d beforehand solely seen on TV, now are associates. I believe it is a great factor to work arduous to satisfy my dream.
Valentina Shevchenko, UFC ladies’s flyweight champion
When it occurred, I did not watch it. Probably, I used to be getting ready for a few of my Muay Thai competitions. It was an enormous occasion for feminine MMA. That’s why I believe all folks, all martial arts folks knew it was occurring.
I’d not say it modified one thing for me. But I believe it was when occasions come, they arrive. I believe that was the correct time and place for females within the UFC. Of course, the 2 ladies had been from the USA, and that they had a much bigger probability to get within the UFC than other ladies combating for way more years in other nations. It was time to make it occur, and it occurred. Everything began from that second and goes because it ought to go.
It was not one thing like the primary feminine struggle ever in combined martial arts. All over the world, already there have been fights. There was a struggle with Cris Cyborg and Gina Carano [in 2009]. It was like one other push from a much bigger stage and the most important stage of the UFC.
Cris Cyborg, former UFC ladies’s featherweight champion, now with Bellator
I bear in mind the UFC gave Ronda the group’s belt at a press convention, and someway she had by no means fought within the UFC earlier than however was defending her belt in her first UFC struggle. I discovered it loopy as a result of, after [then-Strikeforce president Scott] Coker made the primary world title struggle in WMMA with Carano vs. Cyborg, [UFC president] Dana [White] was saying he would by no means promote ladies fighters. But abruptly he was totally in a relationship with Ronda the place he tried to guard her for so long as potential with out impartial rankings and by means of selective matchmaking.
Women modified the fan base. When males go to the fights, they bring about their ingesting buddy. When ladies go to the fights, they bring about their daughter, son, husband, grandparents. They make it a household occasion, which helped change the way in which folks have a look at the game. Now ladies followers are the quickest rising and most desired demographic within the sport, and it’s because we got a good probability to compete.
Michelle Waterson, UFC strawweight contender
I used to be there stay. At the time, there was just one division [in the UFC] opened up for the women. I bear in mind being excited however on the similar time a bit envious. It was an entertaining struggle, and I used to be pleased with each ladies for laying all of it out on the road. I knew it was the start of a brand new period.
Paige VanZant, former UFC strawweight and flyweight at present with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship
I bear in mind assembly Liz at my Invicta debut and how good she was. At that point, I by no means imagined that I’d be competing on the identical degree as her. It was a extremely massive deal for ladies to be combating within the UFC.
Because Ronda and Liz placed on such a tremendous, gifted and technical struggle, folks lastly realized how good ladies had been at combating and it was one thing that they need to get behind. Not solely was this the struggle that made folks enthusiastic about ladies combating, however I believe it modified the course of MMA historical past perpetually. Having ladies in MMA makes it appear much less barbaric and violent. Ronda and Liz confirmed it may be technical, swish and very thrilling.
Ilima-Lei MacFarlane, former Bellator flyweight champion
There was a man convincing me to affix his fitness center [San Diego Combat Academy] in 2013. He was like, “It’s the gym with Liz Carmouche.” I used to be like, “Who’s that?” Then he defined who she was. He stated, “She’s the one who fought Ronda Rousey.” And that is once I noticed the struggle. I used to be like, “Oh, s—.”
I used to be terrified to coach with [Carmouche]. I did not wish to prepare along with her, however I needed to. I’m like, “Holy f—, they want me to be this girl’s training partner?” I wrestled in highschool. What do they anticipate? I had by no means thrown a punch in my life earlier than. Like, “Oh, you want me to train with her? OK.”
I do know that with out that struggle I in all probability would not be within the place I’m in as we speak. So, it positively modified my life. Here I used to be simply strolling right into a fitness center desirous to drop pounds and standing throughout from Liz Carmouche, who was the primary ladies’s fighter within the UFC. Her and Ronda each made it potential for ladies who wished to struggle to succeed in that degree of stardom and that degree of fame. At the time, I did not realize it.
Katlyn Chookagian, UFC ladies’s flyweight contender
I did not even have an beginner MMA struggle when that occurred. I had a bunch of boxing, kickboxing fights. Jiu-jitsu and the whole lot. I knew I wished to do MMA, I used to be coaching it. At that time, I used to be like, “Wow, this is like pretty crazy.” I knew I wished to do that, however I did not consider it like a occupation. I assumed it will simply be a passion. I had simply completed school, and I used to be like, I’m gonna prepare for a little bit, for 2 years see the place I’m at and then see if I wanted to get an actual job or I may hold bartending and combating.
That was like the primary struggle the place it was like, “Wait, I might be able to like really do this.” Then it was like the following struggle and each struggle Ronda had, I used to be like, “Oh, wait, I might be actually able to like make this a career.” It was form of cool the change of it. I received in proper on the proper time. I do know some ladies I educated with that had been possibly 5, six, seven years older than me, they only missed it. I really feel so dangerous for them.
Kayla Harrison, PFL ladies’s light-weight fighter/former two-time Olympic judo champion
I wasn’t actually targeted on MMA at the moment in my life. I actually simply watched it, as a result of Ronda was my bud. I additionally did not perceive the ripple impact and the importance of the second. I grew up in a sport [judo] that was fully equal. Men and ladies have the very same weight lessons, receives a commission the very same. Wear the identical uniforms. Have the identical period of time of their matches. Everything was at all times equal to me. The truth that girls weren’t in a company, that by no means even occurred to my ignorant mind. I did not perceive how massive of a deal it was.
But now, oh my god, are you kidding me? Ronda was the right particular person within the excellent place on the excellent time. If she hadn’t been round and she hadn’t executed what she did, I’d in all probability be — I do not know. I would not be doing MMA, that is for positive. She opened up the door for ladies like me. She did not even open it — she kicked that s— down.