In reflecting on the UFC’s historic fight between two lesbian fighters featured on UFC on Fox 8, it is another statement in the promotion’s effort in bolstering the women’s division. As 2013 emerges as the Year of the Female Fighters in UFC, it is a long overdue event finally earning its share of the spotlight.
Despite the ground breaking historical impact of the match between Liz Carmouche and Jessica Andrade, it certainly augments debate among the most hardened of sports cynics. From the outset, one cannot help but wonder if this was for sheer publicity. Does this event help generate interest among lesbians?
If there were two UFC male fighters that were gay, the odds of such a match being promoted are unlikely. There is no question that UFC has a very manly and somewhat barbaric feel to it. If a male fighter even felt comfortable admitting to being gay, it could unleash significant backlash due to insensitive remarks and the possibility that some fighters may not feel comfortable fighting a gay man.
Of note, Carmouche (known affectionately as Girlrilla) was the first openly gay fighter, among women and men in UFC. A former United States Marine, the 29 year-old sports an 9-3 mark who turned UFC on its ear when she challenged Ronda Rousey at UFC 157. Originally, she was supposed to fight Miesha Tate in the match but Tate was rescheduled to face Rousey in December.
Her role as a pioneering female athlete may still take time to absorb. From being called a role model by kids, to seeing more female fighters train in her community to the invitations to appear in Pride Parades, Carmouche may quickly become as big a household name as Ronda Rousey.
While Andrade, a 21 year-old fighter from Brazil whose record is 9-3, has certainly helped to impact people’s lives also, this was her first fight in the United States. As the youngest fighter in the UFC, her nickname is Bate Estaca, which is Brazilian for Piledriver. She acquired the nickname after trying to use the illegal move during a jiu-jitsu event in Brazil.
This was the issue that Carmouche faced when she was in the Marine Corps. Closeted during her time serving her country, she admitted her same-sex preference from the beginning of her fighting career. In that regard, the groundbreaking fight is definitely liberating for these two fighters as they can express who they are.
It is ironic that UFC is the one sporting promotion that openly discussed the lesbian topic without fear of reprisal or controversy. While other sports have had female athletes such as Sami Grisafe (football), Sheryl Swoopes (basketball) and Sarah Vaillancourt (hockey) publicly admit their same-sex preference, there are many more who only admit to such a thing after retirement.
With the Fox network having broadcast the event, these two exceptionally conditioned athletes showed that they earned their recognition in the national spotlight. Although the first round saw the fighters engage in back-and-forth grappling, Andrade actually picked up Carmouche and slammed her to the mat. With Carmouche in an arm-in guillotine, she fell behind in the score 10-9 to Andrade.
After trading leg kicks to start the second round, Carmouche took charge. Although Andrade escaped a rear naked choke, Carmouche would get her in a high mount. Engaging in a ground-and-pound, referee Herb Dean stopped the match and awarded the decision to Carmouche.
While Carmouche mentioned to the Vancouver Province (prior to the fight) that they were matched up due to their exciting fighting styles, fans can only hope that the future will see more fighters judged on their athleticism and not their preferences.