As shocking as it was to hear a fired up Dana White talk about the long-range future of Strikeforce on Showtime, it was nothing compared to his attitude shift on women's MMA.
The women's divisions will remain in tact in the new Strikeforce/Showtime deal announced yesterday. In the middle of 2011, it appeared female fighting was going to take step back when Strikeforce was dissolved. By popular demand, women's fighting will still be showcased at close to the highest level of the sport. .
"Every weekend you guys are asking me about the women's division ... and women and women and women, and the fans are always terrorizing me on twitter about the women's division. The women's division is very popular. We're gonna keep it," White said during a teleconference (7:45 mark).
Stars like Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, Miesha Tate, Sarah Kaufman and Ronda Rousey still have a home where they can get major exposure. White is sticking to guns about the issues he has with women's MMA. It needs work, but he's willing to give it a chance saying both the 135 and 145 pound divisions will stay.
"Again you guys hear me talk about this all the time. The depth in some of these divisions. 'Cyborg's' division has that problem. She's a huge star. She's a champion. We're gonna keep that division. People are excited to her fight. We're gonna keep it," said White (9:40 mark).
Zuffa management may lean toward some crossover fights between the divisions while the depth issues is being worked on.
"If you look at Cyborg's division, it's not a very deep division with a lot of talent. You can stack the other division deep with talent because that's what you have to do," said White comparing it to the early days of UFC when there were no lightweight, bantamweight and featherweight divisions in the promotion (20:15 mark). "In order to run a show and establish champions with great contenders you gotta go deep in every one of those weight divisions."
So as big as the news was for the elite male fighters at 205, 185, 170 and 155, yesterday's announcement benefited female fighting more than anything. With the might and money of Zuffa/UFC plus the ability to talent evaluate, the talent pool in female fighting at the highest levels should explode. Then the question is, will fans want to pay to see it and will it bring eyes to the TV sets? That's a debate for another day. At least right now, women get the opportunity.