We are on the verge of crowning three featherweight champions this year, and a lot of people have seen this as a problem.
The UFC’s announcement in December started it all as they announced they will crown their first 145 champion with Holly Holm versus Germaine de Randamie at UFC 208 February 11th in Brooklyn, New York. With Cyborg Justino possibly being under suspension by USADA and not having defended her title in the past year due to her UFC stint, Invicta will be crowning an interim champion this coming Saturday in Kansas City with Charmaine Tweet versus Megan Anderson.
Only a few days after Invicta’s announcement, Bellator finally pulled the trigger on a match between Marloes Coenen and Julia Budd for their inaugural 145 title.
This would be great but a lot of things have changed since the 145 division was the ruler of the roost.
Before the establishment of actual women’s weight divisions, it was chaos.
Many fighters would fight several classes above their weight for a fight, and it wouldn’t be unheard if a natural strawweight would fight at featherweight.
When Gina Carano came around, 145 was the weight most had to fight at in the United States. Soon, we got 135 established in Strikeforce, and separate weight classes started to form. Invicta was the first US promotion to establish what is the current system of weight divisions.
The 145 division started to crumble as Cyborg started to decimate her opponents after Gina Carano and many fighters dropped to 135 for a better shot at getting gold; Ronda Rousey being the prime example.
After years of research into trends in weight classes, I am come to the conclusion 125 is roughly the average female fighter size. The 2016 pro female fighter numbers solidify this as strawweight saw 222 fights, bantamweight at 158, and flyweight at 143. Featherweight only saw only 29 pro fights.
The UFC finds themselves in a bigger mess than the other two promotions.
Bellator has eight signed fighters with four top 10 Unified ranked in that division:
- #2 Marloes Coenen
- #3 Julia Budd
- #5 Arlene Blencowe
- #8 Gabrielle Holloway
Invicta also has four top 10ers:
- #4 Charmaine Tweet
- #6 Megan Anderson
- #7 Latoya Walker
- #9 Daria Ibragimova
The current #10 is the unsigned Helena Kolesnyk. This leaves #1 Cyborg as the only true featherweight in the UFC, and she maybe out for a year.
What is more perplexing about the UFC is Holm is coming off two losses to get a title shot, something the UFC has never done.
If there is any consolation, Randamie fought at 145 in Strikeforce before moving down to 135 for the UFC.
There were very few 145 debuts in 2016 and some may drop to 135. The UFC will have to raid the 135 division and the Invicta 145 to make up their shortfall.
If you think Invicta may find themselves in a bind, fear not. If there is a silver lining, the amateur divisions will help fill Invicta’s featherweight division soon. 55 amateur featherweight bouts happened in 2016, with 26 fights at 155. With European expansion, the demand for heavier female weights in the IMMAF tournaments also seem like a good sign.
Athletes from other disciplines (judo, boxing, kicknoxing, amateur wrestling, ect.) could also see some crossover with many weighing heavier than the usual combat athlete.
For now, look for things to get worst more than they get better.