Rousey (6-0 MMA, 4-0 SF) has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom since capturing the Strikeforce women's bantamweight championship in March. The 2008 judo Olympic bronze medalist has swiftly submitted each of her opponents to date, and her formidable skills quickly drew the eye of UFC President Dana White. Once unsold on the idea of promoting female fights under the UFC banner, White began to warm up to the idea after watching Rousey compete in person.
Rousey's manager, Darin Harvey, was quick to deny the TMZ report and stated that his client has not yet signed on to become a UFC fighter. Sources close to the promotion told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) the same.
However, with Strikeforce in limbo, it would appear that a deal to bring Rousey into the UFC is likely to be finalized sooner rather than later. Former champ Miesha "Cupcake" Tate (13-3 MMA, 6-2 SF), whom Rousey defeated for the title, could join her in the world-famous UFC octagon.
This is not the first time UFC management has flirted with the idea of promoting a female fighter. Erica Montoya, a decorated jiu-jitsu prodigy who won her MMA debut at age 14, provided guest commentary for UFC events and later appeared in the "UFC: Sudden Impact" video game. A bout between Montoya and Shelby Walker was rumored for UFC 51 in 2005, but it never came to fruition. In 2008 White stated that he was open to bringing Gina Carano into the Zuffa-owned WEC, but nothing came of the plan, and Carano instead moved on to Strikeforce.
Initial reaction to Rousey's reported UFC signing was mixed among fighters and analysts. While most saw it as a tremendous step forward for female athletes in MMA, the general consensus was that the UFC will likely showcase Rousey and a few other select fighters in the women's bantamweight division only, with no focus on bringing in competitors from any of the other female weight classes. Should Rousey lose for the first time, it is unclear if the UFC would continue to actively promote a women's division or whether interest would quickly wane.
If Rousey's move to the UFC becomes official, she is expected to be recognized as the first female champion in UFC history.
Flyweight stars Gurgel, Eye collide at Bellator 83
After making a successful return to action this past month, Bellator champ Zoila "The Warrior Princess" Gurgel (12-1 MMA, 6-0 BFC) steps back into the cage to face rising star Jessica "Evil" Eye (8-1 MMA, 2-0 BFC) at Bellator 83 on Dec. 7 in Atlantic City, N.J. Gurgel's 115-pound Bellator title will not be on the line in the featured flyweight matchup.
Gurgel and Eye initially were in talks to face off in an all-Ohio battle at Bellator 78 on Oct. 26, but a lingering foot injury kept Eye on the sidelines. Gurgel went on to post a unanimous-decision victory over Casey "KO" Noland. It was Gurgel's first fight since suffering a torn ACL in 2011. Gurgel has won seven straight fights and remains the first and only Bellator women's champion. Eye is currently riding a five-fight winning streak and most recently defeated one of her toughest opponents to date, Angela Magana, in August.
Although the Gurgel-Eye matchup will not be for a title, the bout will be a pivotal one for both fighters, and the winner will likely ascend to the top spot of the 125-pound flyweight division. Prior to the ACL injury that kept her out of action for close to 20 months, Gurgel maintained a top-two ranking at both 115 and 125 pounds. She remains one of the sport's premier female fighters. Eye hopes her four-and-a-half years of hard work will culminate with the biggest victory of her career when she faces Gurgel next month.
Invicta FC 4 card begins to take shape
Invicta Fighting Championships will stage its fourth all-female event in January, and the card has begun to take shape. Verbal agreements are in place for at least five bouts on the card, which takes place at a venue to be determined in the Kansas City area.
Among the targeted matchups is a bantamweight rematch between top contenders Shayna "The Queen of Spades" Baszler (15-7) and Alexis "Ally-Gator" Davis (12-5). Baszler eked out a close decision victory over Davis when the fighters first fought at Freestyle Cage Fighting 40 in March 2010. Baszler has won three of four fights since then and captured titles for FCF and The Cage Inc. along the way. Davis is 5-2 since the loss to Baszler and most recently became the first woman to submit Hitomi "Girlfight Monster" Akano in MMA competition.
A featherweight bout between Ediene "India" Gomes (9-2) and Hiroko "Cat's Eye" Yamanaka (12-2) is also in the works for Invicta FC 4. Gomes has won three straight fights and appears to be well on her way to vying for a 145-pound title next year. Yamanaka looks to rebound from a decision loss to Germaine "The Iron Lady" de Randamie under the Strikeforce banner.
In other action on the card, Invicta FC 3 Knockout of the Night winner Joanne Calderwood (4-0) welcomes Australia's Bec "Rowdy" Hyatt (4-1) to the Invicta FC cage in a 115-pound strawweight bout. Also at 115 pounds, Tecia "The Tiny Tornado" Torres (1-0) faces fellow top prospect "12 Gauge" Paige VanZant (2-0). A 105-pound atomweight bout pits "Lightning" Liz McCarthy (1-0) against standout striker Jodie Esquibel (2-0).
Invicta FC 4 was expected to feature a headliner and Invicta FC strawweight championship bout between Carla "Cookie Monster" Esparza (8-2) and Jewels champ Ayaka Hamasaki (8-0), but Hamasaki may be tasked to defend her Jewels title in December, and her participation on the Invicta FC card is no longer certain. An official decision will likely be made this week.
Invicta FC president takes aim at dishonest managers
Throughout her lengthy tenure working in MMA, Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp has developed a reputation among colleagues and athletes for always putting the safety and well-being of her fighters above everything else. Earlier this month, Knapp spoke out for a second time against one or more fighter management companies for allegedly using false promises to lure fighters into signing exclusive managerial contracts.
According to Knapp, fighters were being told that they must sign on with a specific manager (or managers) in order to obtain a spot on an Invicta FC card. Not true at all, said Knapp, who felt that fighters were being bullied or manipulated into signing new management deals under false pretenses. Knapp maintains that her promotion is open to working with all female fighters, no matter whom they are represented by, and that only she and Invicta FC matchmaker Janet Martin make the calls when it comes to booking fight cards.
For its three events this year, Invicta FC brought in top female competitors from countries all over the world. The promotion expects to continue to expand and bring in even more worldwide talent for its events in the coming year, beginning with Invicta FC 4 in January.
Lybarger twins join MMAjunkie.com Radio, Jocelyn credits champ Henderson
This past Friday, MMA's fighting twins, Jillian and Jocelyn Lybarger, joined MMAjunkie.com Radio to discuss their upcoming fights. Jillian is set to close out her amateur career by facing rival Stephanie "The Shark" Gonzalez at "Tuff-N-Uff: Feastibrawl" on Nov. 21 in Las Vegas. Jocelyn made a successful pro debut at Invicta FC 2 and is looking to pick up her second pro win when she competes in Texas this coming January.
For Jillian, the bout with Gonzalez is a long time coming. The fighters were twice scheduled to face each other for the Tuff-N-Uff 115-pound title, but the weight cut was too severe for Jillian, and she was unable to compete on either occasion. Gonzalez is also preparing to make the jump to the professional ranks, and she agreed to move up to 125 pounds to face Jillian and settle the score once and for all.
In January, Gonzalez picked up a split-decision victory over Jocelyn – a result that sister Jillian disputes – and she will have an opportunity to make it two-for-two against the Lybargers in eight days. Jillian has had a hectic schedule in the weeks leading up to the bout with Gonzalez and just married her long-time girlfriend this past weekend, but she credits new striking and wrestling coaches for helping her to make big improvements to her MMA game.
Jocelyn, too, has improved her skills considerably over the past six months. She credits her training with UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson at The Lab in Arizona for helping to mold her into a better fighter.
Jocelyn is the only female fighter at The Lab, but she has a number of quality training partners who compete in the lighter weight classes, including UFC lightweight champion Benderson Henderson. More importantly, she is always made to feel welcome at the gym even though it is a male-dominated environment.
"[Benson] never forgets that I am the only female in the gym," she said. "When he does his motivational speeches at the end of practice, he says to look at your opponent across the cage – 'what does he look like, what does she look like?' – he always makes sure to include me in everything."
Both sisters are currently contracted to Invicta FC, but Jillian must first finish her career as an amateur before she can officially debut for the all-pro promotion. Jocelyn hopes that a win in January will lead to a return to Invicta FC later in the year.
Sheila Bird (3-0) def. Christina "Scary" Barry (0-2) via KO (punches) at the 11-second mark of Round 2 at "Aggression Fighting Championship 12: Domination" on Nov. 2 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Bird dropped Barry with two right hands and followed with one more on the ground before referee Brian Beauchamp dove in to stop the brief fight. All three of Bird's pro wins have come inside the first round.
Puja Kadian (1-0) def. late replacement Walaa Abas Mohamed Kamaly (1-1) via TKO (punches) at the 3:07 mark of Round 2 at Super Fight League 7 on Nov. 2 in Mumbai, India. Kadian dominated the fight on the ground and eventually finished off her short-notice opponent with a series of punches from mount. She returns to SFL to face Charmaine Tweet on Nov. 23.
Anna Zucchelli (3-1) def. Chloe Hinchliffe (1-3) via TKO (punches and elbows) at the 4:13 mark of Round 2 at "All or Nothing 4: Best of the Best" on Nov. 3 in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. Zucchelli battered Hinchliffe with punches and elbows from mount until referee Neil Hall finally intervened for a late stoppage. Zucchelli has won three straight fights.
Tracy Lockwood (1-0) def. Deepika (0-1) via submission (rear-naked choke) at the 2:10 mark of Round 1 at Super Fight League 8 on Nov. 9 in Mumbai, India. Lockwood brought a decorated muay Thai background into her MMA debut, but it was her jiu-jitsu skills that earned her the win. She attempted a guillotine choke early on and later countered a takedown with a rear-naked choke that forced Deepika to tap out.
Sadae "Manhoef" Suzumura (4-1-1) def. Shino VanHoose (3-2) via submission (kneebar) at the 2:18 mark of Round 2 at Pancrase Progress Tour 12 on Nov. 10 in Tokyo. Suzumura was able to stuff her 17-year-old opponent's takedown attempts and held a clear advantage on the feet. She locked on the kneebar after a scramble on the ground, and VanHoose tapped out. Suzumura has won three in a row since suffering her lone loss in July 2011.
Tonya "Triple Threat" Evinger (11-6) def. Carina "Beauty But The Beast" Damm (17-8) via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) at Fight Hard MMA on Nov. 10 in St. Charles, Mo. Evinger made her flyweight debut in the fight and outpointed Damm in the later rounds to take the close decision win. She has won three straight fights while Damm has dropped five of her past seven.
On the same Fight Hard MMA card, Tamikka "Boom Boom" Brents (1-0) def. Jessica "Raising Havoc" Halverson (3-2) via TKO (punches and elbows) at the 4:01 mark of Round 1. Brents put together a stellar amateur record of 11-0-1 with one no-decision. She originally was scheduled to make her pro debut against Olympic medalist Randi Miller in September, but that fight was scrapped when Miller no-showed the weigh-ins. Brents rocked Halverson with punches right away and finished her off with strikes on the ground to earn an impressive victory.
Kalindra Carvalho Faria (9-3-1) faces Camila "Pitbull" Lima (4-4) in a rematch at Warriors Fighting Championship 1 on Nov. 14 in Taubate, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Faria originally was set to face Carina Damm on this card, but Damm withdrew in order to face Tonya Evinger this past weekend. Faria is the reigning Pink Fight 121-pound champion and has won four straight fights. She defeated Lima via unanimous decision in the pair's first fight in 2009. Lima has won all four of her fights this year and looks to avenge the loss to Faria in the rematch.
Lina "Lynx" Eklund (2-1) faces Margaret Aase (0-0) at Rumble of the Kings 7 on Nov. 16 in Linkoping, Sweden. Eklund rebounded from her first pro loss by picking up a unanimous-decision win in March. Aase makes her pro debut after winning three amateur bouts in the "Norway's Best Fighter" reality show competition earlier this year.
Revelina "Nana" Berto (3-0) faces Stephanie Webber (2-2) at "Real Fighting Championships 28: Legacy" on Nov. 17 in Punta Gorda, Fla. Berto, sister to boxing champion Andre and fellow MMA fighter James Edson, returns to MMA for the first time since February 2009. She has finished two of her three opponents and defeated Bellator veteran Stefanie Guimaraes in her most recent fight. Webber has yet to go the distance in any of her four pro bouts, and she is coming off of a submission win in June.
Laura Balin (1-0) faces Ana Blank (0-0) at 360 Pro Fight on Nov. 17 in Corrientes, Argentina. Balin secured a quick submission victory in her September pro debut. Blank competes as a professional for the first time.
Allanna "Hands of Stone" Jones (1-0) faces Randa Markos (0-0) at "Impact Fight League 51: No Guts, No Glory" on Nov. 17 in Auburn Hills, Mich. Jones went 8-2 as an amateur and made a successful pro debut with a first-round TKO triumph in September. Markos makes her professional debut after posting a 5-1 amateur record.
Simona Soukupova (2-2-1) faces Elodie Puget (1-0) at KAYO MMA 9 on Nov. 24 in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. Soukupova most recently battled Finnish standout Katja Kankaanpaa to a split draw in September. Puget returns to action for the first time since picking up a unanimous-decision victory in her March pro debut.
Nina "The Strina" Ansaroff (1-3) faces Jessica Doerner (2-0) at "The Cage Inc.: Battle at the Border 11" on Nov. 24 in Hankinson, N.D. Ansaroff has faced tough opponents in each of her four pro bouts and took Invicta FC stars Barb Honchak and Carla Esparza to razor-thin split decisions. She competes for the first time since July 2011 and has another bout lined up for December. Doerner has earned first-round TKO victories in both of her pro fights, and she will have the hometown crowd on her side.
MMAjunkie.com publishes the Women's MMA Report every other Monday. Its author, Robert Sargent, is a veteran MMA journalist who also runs MMARising.com. Feel free to email us at news [AT] mmajunkie.com with any questions, news tips or suggestions.