Name a single major sport organization that puts women at the forefront of their marketing and promotion. Tennis and golf do a decent job at promoting their women’s divisions – except the WPGA Tour and the WTA are separate organizations from their male counterparts. The WNBA is unfortunately widely panned. Women’s baseball and football might as well be non-existent for the coverage they get, and the same goes for hockey and soccer (outside of the Olympics or large international tournaments). Female athletes just don’t have the same opportunities or exposure to create real, long-lasting professional careers out of their respective sports.
As depressing as that all may be, there is an unlikely champion of women’s professional sports that’s emerged over the past 2 years; mixed martial arts has decided to carry this particular torch. A sport that a mere 20 years ago had crowds almost exclusively populated by guys swimming in an ocean of testosterone, all screaming out for blood, is now a pioneer in gender equality in sports. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.
In 2011, Dana White - UFC President - infamously said that women would ‘never’ step foot inside a UFC octagon, despite the fact that then-rival organization Strikeforce had introduced a WMMA division to a positive reception. Nearly one year later he voluntarily ate his own words and kickstarted the women’s bantamweight division in the UFC, awarding the inaugural UFC women’s bantamweight championship to Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey. What changed his mind? Well, in business, money talks, and assumedly White realized that this had the potential to be a big cash cow. This time, he was right. MMA is now virtually the only sport to promote their women’s division alongside the men. Rousey has become a big draw for the UFC, right up there with the drawing power of Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez.
Although at times the women’s bantamweight division in the UFC can feel a lot like the Ronda Rousey show, the decision to introduce a strawweight division (106-115lbs) shows that the organization is determined to move beyond Rousey into establishing women’s MMA as an integral part of their operations. Until then, the women’s bantamweight division and the 20 fighters who form it are the only women in the UFC. Today we'll take a look at the contracts for the 7 highest earning female fighters in the UFC. All payout figures are per fight, and include both the standard pay and the win bonus – which, as a general rule, is the same as the standard pay. These figures don’t take into account any sponsorship deals or backroom bonuses awarded to fighters that may be left off the publicly disclosed information.
7 Germaine de Randamie - $18,000 Per Fight ($9,000 to show, $9,000 to win)
6 Julie Kedzie - $18,000 Per Fight ($9,000 to show, $9,000 to win)
5 Liz Carmouche - $24,000 Per Fight ($12,000 to show, $12,000 to win)
4 Alexis Davis - $30,000 Per Fight ($15,000 to show, $15,000 to win)
3 Sara McMann - $32,000 Per Fight ($16,000 to show, $16,000 to win)
2 Miesha Tate - $56,000 Per Fight ($28,000 to show, $28,000 to win)
1 Ronda Rousey - $110,000 Per Fight ($55,000 to show, $55,000 to win)
Finally, we come to the Queen of the bantamweight division herself. ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey is an undefeated mixed martial artist with a perfect professional record of 9 wins with no losses. After winning the bronze medal in Judo at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, Rousey set her sights on MMA. She made her debut in 2011 in dominant fashion, and hasn’t slowed down since. Prior to her fight against Miesha Tate, all of her victories were in the 1st round by armbar. In her fight against McMann she revealed that a devastating knee strike to the liver is also part of her arsenal. Dana White has gone on the record to say that the only reason he changed his mind about women’s MMA was because of Ronda Rousey. As of now, she is the de facto face of not only the UFC women’s bantamweight division, but all of women’s mixed martial arts. After helping make WMAA mainstream, it’ll be interesting to see just how long her reign as champion is going to be. Every woman who steps foot in an MMA ring will have Rousey in the back of her mind. Only time will tell if Ronda Rousey can live her life forever with a target on her back, but right now, she’s unstoppable.
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