Saturday, January 22, 2022

Could Nunes vs. Anderson Be the Last UFC Featherweight Title Fight?

There is a women’s featherweight championship bout on the docket for UFC 259. The dual champion Amanda Nunes is set to defend her featherweight title for the second time. This time, Nunes takes on Megan Anderson in the co-main event. With this being her second defense of the 145-pound title since winning it from Cris Cyborg back in December of 2018, that leads to the question: Could this be the last championship bout in the featherweight division? 

It is no secret that the UFC has not been giving the featherweight division the attention it deserves. Since the creation of the weight class back in 2017, it seems like the goal of the division was to get Cris Cyborg a UFC championship belt. Cyborg came to the UFC and stated immediately that she could not cut weight to 135 pounds. Since the UFC only had a bantamweight and strawweight division at the time, it seemed weird to say the least to sign Cyborg if she could not make weight.

Cyborg was set up with a couple of catchweight bouts and then the announcement of a 145-pound title was released. The thing was, Cyborg would not be the one competing for this title. Instead, it was former bantamweight champion Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie, who ultimately faced off at 145 pounds for the first time. 

De Randamie won and then never defended the title, not a good look for a new division that didn’t even have a top five. This cleared the way for Cyborg to step in and win the title. She had been pitted up against ladies who are clearly bantamweights throughout her whole UFC career.

Then, in walks Amanda Nunes, another bantamweight who dominates Cyborg and now holds two titles. It now rests on her to defend both in order to nurture the growth of both divisions. So far, she has done a good job, but how much longer can she do it?

The UFC is still not putting in the effort to grow this division. They held a season of “The Ultimate Fighter” featuring featherweights, but in reality, most of those ladies have since returned to bantamweight. Why isn’t this weight class given the love it deserves with fighters like Amanda Nunes, Megan Anderson, and others showing with each fight they deserve to be there?

The UFC is about marketability and that is the reason why the lighter divisions saw more attention than the heavier ones. It is not easy to be a woman in sports, let alone a physically violent sport. Recently, a very prominent ESPN personality spoke out about his desire not to see ladies inside the UFC cage. In a male-dominated sport, there is a pretext that the women participating need to be one of two ways: dominant or pleasing to the eye. 

Is there a rule that bigger women can’t be both? Of course, this is not the case. The UFC was hesitant to market Amanda Nunes at first and, in her bout with Ronda Rousey, was barely show in advertisements despite being the champion. But now that she is the “best female fighter of all time,” then yes, of course, put her on a pedestal. If Nunes wins and doesn’t want to continue in her featherweight reign, which is very much a possibility now that she has had her first child and personal responsibilities could be more time-consuming, then the division might disappear.

If Anderson wins, then what? Does she face one of the many bantamweights who choose to move up or the two or three other featherweights on the roster? There is still no top ten for this division, and it seems there might never be. The featherweight fighters around the world deserve to be brought into the UFC and marketed to grow this exciting division.

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