This past weekend, we saw Amanda Nunes successfully defend her title with a head kick finish over Holly Holm. Her hit list includes everyone who was champion at bantamweight and featherweight in the UFC.
The term “Greatest Female Fighter of All Time” was suddenly awarded by many fans and the media, but I was of the small group not giving her the moniker.
I was immediately challenged:
I currently give Megumi Fujii that title, due to her 22 fight win streak to begin her career and never being finished in her three losses. Nunes lost three times in her career, two times being finished.
This sparked debate about the criteria we use to consider GOAT status, with many giving their opinions on the subject.
Let’s breakdown the list and see arguments from both sides.
This is my top criteria for GOAT, which seems to be a lesser factor for most. Fujii, like her male counterpart Fedor, went on a massive undefeated streak. Fujii went to win 22 straight fights with 20 finishes before her first ever loss, a streak that may never be broken by a female fighter.
Fighting in their Prime
Another argument is Nunes is currently fighting “in her prime”. Her losses were when she was still developing.
Nunes came into the sport just after the era began when amateur divisions started to come into the picture. Once you turn pro, losses count. Many fighters will develop enough in the amateurs to work out their holes in their game. This could prove to be an argument in the future if a fighter goes on a huge win streak and has amateur losses.
Should be noted amateur fights were also rare in Fujii’s time.
There is also the consideration of more fights in less time. With the popularity of the female divisions now, the number of fights per year has dramatically increased. So is recovery a factor? Does having more fights in a shorter amount of time play a factor?
Quality of Competition
When Fujii went on her legendary run, the women’s divisions were still in their infancy. Many had only very few fights under their belt before meeting Fujii.
Nunes’s supporters point out that her wins were over more tougher and quality opponents, which is a valid point.
That begs a question. In the current era, the sport and training methods have evolved. From weight cutting to cross training, MMA athletes have more resources at their disposal. Back in the day, “MMA gyms” were few and far between, especially for female fighters. What is tougher – training in less than great circumstances or facing an opponent who has the same advanced resources as yourself?
Best example is the home run record in baseball. In the day of Hank Aaron, the idea or training, even in the off season, was nonsensical. In the 90’s, men like Barry Bonds soon took to training methods in the off season to improve his hitting. Things from reaction training to weight training. (The idea of performance enhancers – we will get to later).
Does it make Hank Aaron less great? For that matter does it make Michael Jordon less great compared to Lebron James, or Wilt Chamberlain before him?
There is a great Ted Talk on this idea and you can watch it below.
It should also be note Fujii was in the era of a limited pool of fighters. She has faced fighters as heavy as 135 pounds, and could have easily made 105 if the division was developed at the time. Nunes has proven to be dominate in two weight classes – 145 and 135.
It has been proven over the past few years 115 and 125 are deeper and more natural weight classes for women. So does that mean the deeper the pool, the more argument you could have for being a GOAT?
Same argument can be stated about the men’s divisions as 155 and 170, which has a deeper talent pool than their heavyweight or light heavyweight counterparts.
This does not pertain to the initial argument, as Nunes and Fujii have never tested positive for prohibited substances.
That being said….
In Fujii’s time, it was the wild, wild west when it came to performance enhancers. There was little to no testing like there currently is. Is it possible some of her opponents had them? We will never really know.
This argument, however, more pertains to the main event on this past weekend’s card: Jon Jones. Having been caught with performance enhancers in the past, does he deserve to be called GOAT? Daniel Cormier also has an argument since all of his fights with Jones were basically no contests due to testing positive for prohibited substances. Even then we go back to the idea that heavyweight and light heavyweight are a smaller pool of talent.
Popularity vs Accomplishments
The also needs to factor in. If you ask most UFC fans who Megumi Fujii is, they have no clue. One argument lobbed to me was that Fujii didn’t have a significant win like Nunes. You have to again remember that in Fujii’s day, the women’s divisions weren’t as popular.
What do you define as significant? Is the amount of people watching an important fight or the athlete accomplishing something that the sport has not seen?
I will also point out the UFC argument. Can there be GOATS outside of their promotion? For years Fedor was considered GOAT, having never stepped in the octagon.
Should We Decide as a Career as a Whole in Retirement?
A point someone brought up was “should we even give someone that moniker before they retire”? It is an interesting question.
Many had considered Ronda Rousey the greatest female fighter of all time until she got knocked out by Holly Holm. Cris Cyborg was the greatest until she got knocked out by Nunes. If someone was to knock out or submit Nunes, does that make that woman “Female GOAT”? Should we wait until their resume is truly complete to make that determination? All fighters lose in MMA at some point, but quickly changing the title of “GOAT” goes away so often, maybe we need to consider it.
The thing is this will always be debated. As fans, we love to. The question of who is “The Greatest of All Time” will never really be settled. Current fans will always consider who they seen in their time, while historians like myself will always seek back to accomplishments those athletes in a time when the sport was in its infancy.
There never will be a definitive answer.