COMMENTARY | At some point during the Cat Zingano-Miesha Tate scrap at the "The Ultimate Fighter" Finale that had the Mandalay Bay Event Center rocking, UFC President Dana White had to be kicking himself as he wondered why he hadn't thought of this sooner. For a man who has been such a staple to the world of MMA, the fact that he wouldn't even consider women in the UFC a couple of years ago will likely go down as one of his biggest errors in judgment.
Deep down inside he knows it, now he just has to admit it.
It's not like White hasn't been wrong before. It's just getting him to publicly state that he made a mistake that cost MMA fans the opportunity to see women throw down in the Octagon that might prove to be difficult.
But seriously, this was an absolute no brainer and it didn't take "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey to confirm it. Although Rousey is the reason that Dana White even considered women in the UFC, the exhilarating throwdown between Cat Zingano and Miesha Tate was the stamp that women's MMA needed. It wasn't a title fight nor was it even the main event. Stripped of its glossy spectacle, Zingano vs. Tate was simply a fight that needed to prove its worth on The Ultimate Fighter Finale main card. In the buildup to the fight there was no HBO Sports profile on the ladies nor was there a big push in the mainstream for casual MMA fans to tune in. So all Zingano and Tate had going for them was the fact that they were two women who cannot do anything less but give their all in the cage. All they needed was a bunch of eyeballs to see what they can do.
MMA hasn't been without its naysayers when it comes to the opposite sex trying to either separate limbs from bodies or an opponent from consciousness. Regardless of what most may tell you when it comes to women's MMA, skepticism has been overwhelmingly high. For some, like White, the concern was that the pool of talent was far too shallow. Others view it like they view the WNBA: a less exciting version of the NBA because the women aren't the physical specimens like their male counterparts. And then there are those who still believe that a woman's place is still in the kitchen. When Ronda Rousey made her UFC debut (with Gina Carano and Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos proceeding her in Strikeforce) it was more of the exception rather than the rule. Rousey was viewed more as a special attraction that part of the UFC. It was up to Zingano and Tate to change that perception one violent exchange at a time.
Even as Zingano made her way to the Octagon on Saturday night there was some skepticism in the air. Rather than a confident stroll to the cage, Zingano let the tears flow freely during her entrance. Some on social media saw it as a sign of weakness. Perhaps the gravity of the fight was far too overwhelming for her to handle. Aside from it being the second fight featuring women in the UFC, there was a lot on the line. The winner would get a shot at the bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, while also coaching opposite her on the upcoming season of "The Ultimate Fighter." The exposure would surely be life changing for the winner and the opportunity to break ground as the first set of women coaches in TUF history would be historic.
Any uncertainty as to whether the women of the UFC would be here to stay was launched out of the window seconds after the fight started. Not only did these two ladies put on a show, they snared the spotlight from a card that featured a man considered the most dangerous competitor in TUF history (Uriah Hall) and one of the most commercially viable figures in all of MMA in Urijah Faber. And it wasn't as if it was a solid fight on an average card, "The Ultimate Fighter" finale was stuffed with all action fights from top to bottom. Tate-Zingano was simply the most exciting and brutal bout on the card that we will be talking about for a long time.
With Tate gaining the advantage early as her superior striking and takedowns had neutralized Zingano's brand of ruthless aggression. Tate -- who suffered a grotesque submission loss to Rousey a year ago -- strung together several submission attempts and controlled the spastic Zingano with stellar wrestling. But Zingano wouldn't allow herself to be held down and seemed to be growing stronger as the fight progressed. When the third round opened, Zingano unleashed a furious barrage of strikes that sent Tate reeling and the crowd in attendance exploding with elation. Although blood was streaming out of her face, Tate wouldn't allow herself to succumb to Zingano's thunderous shots. Unfortunately, a sick series of knee strikes were delivered to Tate's face and referee Kim Winslow, perhaps a tad prematurely, called the fight off. Tate protested the stoppage immediately and Zingano celebrated. But all the emotion in the cage was magnified by the audience's reaction to a high drama fight that casual and diehard fans couldn't help but appreciate.
"They did it again," White said in near disbelief to the media afterwards. "People were texting me, people were on Twitter. People who were in bars and restaurants, stuff like that, were going crazy over that fight. It was an incredible fight.
"I love this division we've got. This 135-pound division, like I said when we did this, is very competitive."
A little bit of revisionist history aside, White is well aware of the potential goldmine he has with women competing in the UFC. All he needs to do now is admit that he made a mistake in waiting so long to bring the opposite sex into a male dominated sport. His apprehensions were understandable as a businessman, but as a passionate fight fan who just so happens to be the president of the largest MMA organization in the world, he knows deep down inside that he didn't necessarily need to wait for a Ronda Rousey to make the decision. He should admit that he took entirely too long in opening the doors.
"The women's fights don't suck," he said with a smirk. And behind that smirk he was still kicking himself for guarding the gates for so long. But thankfully he has granted women entrance into his Ultimate Fighting Championship kingdom and now mixed martial arts will be the first non-Olympic sport north of the border that features women on equal footing as men. He can pat himself on the back for that.
Andreas Hale lives in the fight capital of the world and has covered the sport for mainstream media outlets such as MTV.com and Jay-Z's LifeandTimes.com, as well as die-hard websites including FightNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@AndreasHale).
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation
- Dana White
- Ronda Rousey