The Doggy Bag: Tabloid MMA

Female Rankings

By Sherdog.com Staff Mar 1, 2009
Everyone answers to somebody, so we, the staff at Sherdog.com, have decided to defer to our readers.

“The Doggy Bag” gives you the opportunity to speak about what’s on your mind from time to time.

Our reporters, columnists, radio hosts, and editors will chime in with our answers and thoughts, so keep the emails coming.

This week, readers weigh-in in a wide range of topics, including female mixed martial rankings and Sherdog.com’s “tabloid” journalism.


I was wondering if or when Sherdog.com planned on making a women's ranking segment for the site. It’s a great way to showcase unknown talent and set up fights … I would love to see Gina Carano get KTFO.
-- Al Barnes


Jordan Breen, columnist and radio host: As to the question of if we plan on producing women's MMA rankings in the future, absolutely. It would be ridiculous not to. However, the question of "when" is the operative and tricky part.

It's my personal opinion that given the landscape of women's MMA right now, it isn't necessarily prudent to produce rankings. Beyond the pronounced fracturing of the talent pool and the fact it undermines the ability for top women to fight each other, there are severe logistical problems, the chiefest of which is weight divisions. Although any rankings Sherdog.com publish will be based on MMA's authentic weight classes under the Unified Rules, women's MMA hasn't exactly adhered to them rigorously thus far.

More than ProElite's inane weight classes, Japanese MMA, where a huge bulk of top female fighters ply their trade, is all-over-the-map with its weight classes. One of the world's best women, Satoko Shinashi, fights in Deep's 99-pound class. 58 kilograms, or 128 pounds, is often used as a weight division in Japan, as well.

On top of arguably the biggest market for women's MMA often employing garbled weight classes, there's presently a disproportionate amount of women's bouts in MMA that take place at catch-weights, as many women have yet to find their most suitable weight class, or because of the other most pressing issue: depth.

Technically, we need just 10 (or five, even) females in any given weight class to rank them and make a list. In some weight classes, such as 125 and 135 pounds, this is not necessarily hard. However, in most weight classes, there is a lack of suitable depth for stratifying its competitors, since in many cases it is a case of one or two legitimate outstanding women, and an extremely sparse field of profoundly mediocre fighters that makes the men's heavyweight division look like the 155-pound class.

One commonly suggested solution is that given the relative lack of depth and the political non-adherence to legitimate weight classes, that the site should publish a women's pound-for-pound list. I understand the largest reason for it: there are already many bona fide women in the sport who should rightfully have their accomplishments recognized. However, pound-for-pound lists have a rootedness in divisional rankings, and the concept of beating great competition, so I think that having a pound-for-pound list solely for the recognition of MMA's outstanding women is an act of tokenism, and putting the cart before the horse.

You're spot on in the assessment that rankings -- especially for developing realms like the sub-lightweight divisions and women's MMA -- can be seriously influential in mobilizing promoters. However, the raison d'etre for rankings should be primarily to offer a picture as to whom the sport's most objectively accomplished and meritorious fighters are. Its ability to put ideas in the heads of fans and promoters are a fantastic side effect, but should never be confused with their purpose.

So, yes, women's MMA rankings will be here eventually. When, I can't say for sure. It entirely depends on how the competitive climate of women's MMA develops. However, the fact that so many more people are now paying attention to the sport's women, the fact that a Carano-Cyborg bout has now reached superfight status, and money-making promotions are seeing women are a legitimate asset to their company, is a fantastic sign of a future which may be nearer than we think.
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