On Friday night, Rhonda Crawford won the women’s flyweight championship belt at UFC 229 with a hard-fought split decision over champion Cat Zingano. The bout was a pivotal one. For the first time in recent memory, the New Jersey native and former GMA sportscaster was able to become an overall UFC champion, not just a champion of hers division.
Crawford became the second woman to win a championship belt in her first or second trip to the UFC, which has had no female fighters since Ronda Rousey. After that 2014 loss to Holly Holm, former UFC superstar Rousey turned her back on the sport. And though long-awaited UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes reclaimed the title in March, she had to wait nearly two years to make her return — and fought in the featherweight division instead of the 170-pound weight class she holds the most (prior to this season’s “The Ultimate Fighter” the women’s bantamweight division did not exist).
Meanwhile, women in the UFC were fighting in different divisions, fighting against divisions, even competing for titles as the bantamweight and featherweight classes. Women fought in grudge matches in the light heavyweight division, and women fought against one another in the 135-pound division.
In other words, there was a lot of crossover among women’s fights. Now, the women can do the same thing at the lower weight divisions as they did at the higher weight divisions.
After her post-fight press conference, Crawford-Porter told the press: “There will definitely be more women [at the UFC and in the UFC] — and girls — fighting at welterweight. This is the beginning.”
Crawford-Porter (T) vs. Zingano (L) was voted Fight of the Night. The win scores 47% of the MMA media vote. https://t.co/ekjULua6wF pic.twitter.com/csGu1KsOvH — ESPN (@espn) May 17, 2019
The 22-year-old Crawford-Porter from Pennsylvania would seem to be one of the more likely candidates to be given the opportunity to fight for a featherweight title belt — UFC president Dana White said on Friday night that he would consider a 145-pound lightweight fight between Crawford-Porter and Cris Cyborg, if that were to happen. After all, Cyborg is the reigning interim featherweight champion and a 12-1 fighter.
White also said, however, that the UFC should focus on making the 135-pound division competitive, where there have only been three champions thus far, but not any women. So, in that sense, there’s already been some crossover, and there is more to come, even if the focus is on divisions other than the ones where the women were fighting at.