Most Popular and Successful Female MMA / UFC Fighters
Mixed Martial Arts is a popular sport for many reasons and one of the real plus points of divisions such as the UFC, Invicta and Bellator is the fact that they host both men’s and women’s bouts on the same bill.
In more than twenty years since the sport hit the mainstream we’ve seen some classic female fighters and it’s fair to say that MMA wouldn’t have been the same without them. The question as to who is the greatest of them all is up for some debate but to help you make up your mind, here are five of the best.
Currently Popular Female MMA / UFC Fighters
Thug used to be one of the up-and-coming fighters in UFC, but she is no longer that as she has established herself as one of the fiercest fighters the UFC has ever seen. The American is currently ranked as number 2 in the UFC women’s strawweight rankings, after she was defeated by her biggest strawweight rival Jessica Andrade at UFC 237.
Namajunas adopts one of the more aggressive fighting styles currently utilized by fighters and she regularly pressures opponents before moving in for the kill or going for a submission.
Rose Namajunas’ shot at fame came at UFC 217 which was held at Madison Square Garden. She faced the then strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and actually entered the bout as a huge underdog. However, she surprised everyone that night and upset the odds by knocking out the champion and took the crown against the run of expectations. This was by far the biggest surprise in female UFC history, but it was also a sign of things to come for Namajunas.
She immediately became recognized as one of the hottest properties of female UFC and subsequently defended her title by defeating Jedrzejczyk once again in 2018, this time by decision.
A firm favourite among followers of the UFC, Valentina Shevchenko is, at the time of writing, the current women’s lightweight champion of this division. Born in Kyrgyzstan in 1988, she is one of the most versatile fighters in history having established impressive pro records in boxing, Muay Thai and kickboxing.
After making her name in the Legacy Fighting Championship, the Valentina Shevchenko UFC career began at the end of 2015 with a win over Sarah Kaufmann. It was a successful start to life in the biggest division of all but in her first crack at a title bout, Shevchenko lost in a split, and controversial decision to Amanda Nunes.
She switched to the flyweight division and the Valentina Shevchenko next fight showed that she would be a UFC champion at this level. She would have to wait but in September 2018 she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk to take the vacant women’s ufc flyweight title. As the year came to a close. The Valentina Shevchenko UFC and overall fight record stood at 16 wins from 19 pro fights.
A long-standing rival of Valentina Shevchenko, Polish fighter Joanna Jedrzejczyk made her pro mma debut in 2012. Two years’ later, the Joanna Jedrzejczyk UFC career began and she’s become a popular figure with fight fans ever since.
Competing as a strawweight, the Pole recorded early victories over Juliana Lima and Claudia Gadelha at the end of 2014 and then, in the Joanna Jedrzejczyk next fight, she claimed her first ever UFC title by winning the strawweight championship in a battle against Carla Esparza.
The Polish fighter went on to make five successful title defences but, after losing her crown to Rose Namajunas, she has made the decision to step up to lightweight. 2018 ended with that defeat to Valentina Shevchenko but overall, the Joanna Jedrzejczyk UFC career is an impressive one. She ends the year with an overall record of 15 wins from 18 pro fights with four victories coming by knockout and one by submission.
She’s enjoyed a colourful and sometimes controversial career but the world of MMA will always pay close attention whenever the Cris Cyborg next fight is announced. Compared with some of the fighters on this list, she’s reaching the veteran stage of her career but we suspect there is more to come from this brilliant Brazilian.
In terms of the Cris Cyborg UFC career, she is set to end 2018 as the women’s featherweight champion while she also holds this title in two additional MMA organisations. Having made her name with Strikeforce and Invicta, she joined up with the UFC in 2015 and fans waited with anticipation for the Cyborg next fight on the bill.
A number of impressive wins followed before Cyborg claimed her first UFC championship with victory over Tonya Evinger. The lightweight belt was hers and in the Cris Cyborg next fight, she completed a successful defence with Holly Holm. Before 2018 comes to a close, Cyborg will fight Amanda Nunes and she will go into that December 29 battle with a record of 20 wins from 22 pro fights.
As we’ve seen, the Amanda Nunes next fight will be for that UFC lightweight belt as she takes on the reigning champion Cris Cyborg. Brazilian Nunes has an impressive record ahead of that bout but with 16 wins from 20 pro fights, she can’t quite match the defending champion.
Nunes still has a great future in the sport and is expected to be a UFC champion one day. She began with the Strikeforce organisation before moving to Invicta but her rise through the ranks was rapid and she made her UFC debut in April 2013 and marked the occasion with a win over Sheila Gaff.
The Nunes UFC next fight came with another victory, this time over Germaine de Randamie and she’s maintained a healthy ratio of wins to losses along the way. There have been some setbacks but she has been a bantamweight champion of the UFC division and her upcoming battle with Cyborg has the potential to be one of the best women’s MMA fights of all time.
While she may currently be competing in the world of professional wrestling, Ronda Rousey made her name with Mixed Martial Arts and for many of us, that’s where her true legacy lies. Rousey is a versatile athlete and first came into the public eye when she won a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Having retired from the sport, she pondered her next move and eventually plumped for the world of Mixed Martial Arts. Rousey started with Strikeforce but she was soon to be noticed by the best division and the first Ronda Rousey UFC fight came in 2013 and in a short space of time she became the first official women’s bantamweight champion.
She became renowned for winning fights quickly and there were early despatches of Sara McMann and Alexis Davis in title defences. Many felt that Rousey was in a class of her own and perhaps that’s why, as we look ahead to 2019, the Ronda Rousey next fight will fall under the auspices of the WWE. There’s still time to switch back however and the potential remains for Ronda Rousey to become the best female MMA fighter of all time.
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Who are the Top Female UFC Fighters?
This is a tough one to answer, but there are definitely five or ten female UFC fighters which are slightly better than the competition. Valentina Shevchenko is definitely one of them. The Kyrgyzstan born MMA fighter is in possession of black belts in both Judo and Taekwondo and has the highest honours in Kickboxing, Boxing, and Muay Thai. This makes her quite a versatile fighter and one that many opponents dread facing.
One of those opponents is definitely not Amanda Nunes, as she has managed to beat Shevchenko not once, but twice. And it is not just Shevchenko that fears facing Amanda. One of the world’s most legendary UFC fighters of all time, Ronda Rousey, was utterly ashamed at UFC 207 when Nunes defeated the so called Rowdy in only 48 seconds.
Nunes holds a black belt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu and her record of 16 wins and only four defeats in the toughest female competition in the world speaks volumes of her ability to stand her ground in the Octagon.
Even though her defeat to Amanda Nunes was seen as quite surprising at the time, Ronda Rousey is still one of the greats in UFC and in female fighting competitions in general. She is currently one of the most feared female wrestlers in WWE, but has made her name in UFC. She has also starred in several films, and is a recognized author to boot.
The multi talented fighter is also a natural born athlete and competitor and even won the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. From there, she conquered the MMA, and became the first official bantamweight champion. She was known for dispatching her opponents with immaculate ease and at record breaking speeds.
Crys Cyborg is another fighter more than worthy of a mention and many fans consider her as the greatest UFC fighter of all time. The Brazilian has only got one more defeat in her sparkling career and has obliterated her fair share of illustrious opponents. However, if there is one thing that fans hold against her, it is the fact that she has tested positive for banned substances and has been in USADA’s bad books.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Rose Namajunas, Michelle Waterson, and Holly Holm have also done their fair share to improve the popularity of the sport. Young fighters such as Ariane Lipski, Agnieszka Niedzwiedz, Jessica Andrade, and Livia Renata Souza on the other hand, are making sure that the older generation of female UFC legends will properly be replaced.
How many Female UFC Fighters are there?
The number of female UFC fighters is constantly increasing and there are currently more than one hundred active female UFC fighters. These are divided into four divisions: featherweight, bantamweight, flyweight, and strawweight.
There are 7 active featherweight fighters, chief amongst which is the current champion, Amanda Nunes. In addition, there are around 30 fighters who qualify to compete in bantamweight and Amanda Nunes is champion there as well and is actually the first female fighter to have united two division titles.
In women’s flyweights, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Valentina Shevchenko are currently the two biggest names and the division counts close to 50 competitors. Finally, there are around 30 female strawweight fighters competing at the moment, with the current champion being Zhang Weili.
How much do Female Fighters Make?
Well, not a lot. That is currently the only issue that female fighters face, as both popularity and competitiveness have never really been problems in female UFC. The biggest problem with female UFC fighters is that they compete in only 2 to 3 fights per year and that means that whatever they make in those three matches will represent their annual salary. That usually equates to an average of $50 thousand to $75 thousand for the less established fighters and the biggest names make a yearly profit of $100 thousand to a maximum of $300 thousand.
That might seem like a lot when you look at it in isolation, but the fact of the matter is that WNBA players make around that much money and they rarely put their lives on the line and are nowhere as popular as UFC fighters.
Fortunately for female UFC fighters, especially the best and most popular ones, money can also be made from endorsements and sponsorships. Fighters such as Amanda Nunes, Ronda Rousey, and Cris Cyborg have created a marketable image which earns them a little bit of extra money aside from those performance related bonuses and prize money.
Who was the First Female UFC Fighter?
The first MMA fight took place in the US as early as 1997. Becki Levi and Betty Fagan took part in a fight organized by the International Fighting Championships on March 28 1997.
In 2009, Strikeforce became the first major promotion which held a female fight and organized the Carano vs Cristine Santos fight, a bout which Carano won and which was seen by more than 850 thousand viewers.
However, if we are looking for the first female fighter in the UFC as we know it and love it today, then that is undoubtedly Ronda Rousey. The current WWE star was signed by the UFC on November 2012 and was immediately promoted into the bantamweight champion. As you would expect, she defended her title with ease and defeated Liz Carmouche at UFC 157. This is also regarded as the first UFC female fight.