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P4P Rankings: Why Women Should Be Ranked Alongside Men in MMA

Cover photos courtesy of Rose Namajunas, Zhang Weili, and Jessica Andrade

With the increase of popularity of MMA, weight classes like lightweight, have gained momentum in a division already leading in depth and sensationalism. Because the lightweight fighters collectively are so evenly matched, losses say less, and wins say more about the talent of every competitor. Today, just like lightweight, there is a strong case that strawweight has the most talent stacked.

Jessica Andrade has 4 KOs and 4 submissions with half her UFC career spent 20lb above her current weight class. Zhang Weili, the sitting champion is on a destructive 20-fight win streak. Tatiana Suarez shows parallels to the dominant wrestling of Khabib Nurmagomedov, but just had a tough fight with a largely ignored Nina Asaroff. On top of that, Rose Namajuanas just lost the belt in May after defending it only one time.



A post shared by Jessica Andrade “Bate Estaca” (@jessicammapro) on Sep 5, 2019 at 3:00am PDT

These strawweights are constantly fighting the best woman available, so of course they’re all beating each other. Structurally the division facilitates title contentions like Rose Namajuanas’, who fought for a title having only nine professional bouts. This opportunity came after losing her eighth convincingly, yet she was able to seize a world title with a first round KO of the long-sitting champ in Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Joanna won 6 world titles to put Strawweight on the map and earn a spot among the champions on the pound for pound list. She lost the title to Rose, but Rose had losses to women Joanna already defeated in title bouts. And Andrade, who defeated Rose lost decisively to Joanna. The point here is again is that these exchanges of wins and losses only shows that Joanna, who was ascending on the pound for pound list, is and was competing against other fighters who are equally as gifted.



A post shared by Joanna Jedrzejczyk (@joannajedrzejczyk) on Sep 13, 2019 at 6:32am PDT

An emerging trend within the MMA community is the argument that women shouldn’t be ranked in the pound for pound list alongside men. This is sports, not a political race, but this type of thinking is, to put it mildly, socially regressive. Strawweights should not be penalized for competing in a young division of a young sport. They are top athletes and deserve to be perceived as such.

It’s not their fault that women had to wait for an ambassador in Ronda Rousey to get the opportunity to fight on the UFC’s platform. It’s not their fault that Strikeforce was the only promotion televising women’s bouts. And it sure as hell isn’t their fault that the first women’s titles with national exposure weren’t offered until 2009 and 2010 for the featherweight and bantamweight championships respectively.

Withholding renown from female fighters is dishonorable, mainly because it is unfair to penalize them for a lack of opportunity. Strawweights weren’t around for the talent surges from promotion absorptions. We cannot entertain logically inconsistent and irrelevant claims about how they compare to their male peers because this will be ostentatiously detrimental to both their income and legacies. They suffer injuries of the same intensity and frequency so they should at least be recognized fairly for their ‘pound of flesh’.



A post shared by 张伟丽 (@zhangweilimma) on Sep 6, 2019 at 9:01pm PDT

Saying that a female fighter is not on the level of a male fighter based on physical strength and explosive power is absolute nonsense. It would be like saying comparing a male 125lber to a 170lber etc. The man at 170 may be too strong and big for the 125lber to best them in-competition, but that is NOT the same thing as a skills gap. These are one on one competitions where the only fixed variable is size. Women do lack stopping power, but so do men’s divisions at the same weights. The difference is, the men are still less flexible on average and women make up for lack of power in both dexterity and aggression.

As time goes on, the division will have a higher diversity of disciplines, and the nurturing of female juveniles in martial arts will start to become normalized. Even still, the Strawweights are competing at a pristine level and they need to be recognized for it.



A post shared by Rose Namajunas (@rosenamajunas) on Jul 15, 2019 at 1:37pm PDT

Women deserve the spots that they have amongst the men in the pound for pound rankings. Talent evaluations need not be stratified across gender in mma. Both are equally entertaining and have equally skilled champions. Let’s not have a societal regression targeting women in a sport where they deserve the least amount of criticism.■

Editor’s note: a previous version of this article was published under a inaccurate title, it has since been corrected.

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