Ahead of Bellator 34 on Oct. 28, 2010, as she prepared to make her fourth appearance in the Bellator MMA cage, Megumi Fujii was the top pound-for-pound woman in MMA and the most accomplished female fighter of all time. However, to leave it at that does a disservice to the reality, which is that there wasn’t even a close second in either category.
At the time, “Mega Megu” was 22-0 with 19 finishes, 14 of them in the first round, in spite of fighting at least a full division above her ideal weight the entire time. While the elfin 5-foot-3 Fujii could make 105 or 108 pounds with ease—and did so occasionally, when there was an opportunity—the worldwide scarcity of atomweight talent consigned her to strawweight for the bulk of her career, with occasional forays to 125 pounds and even higher in search of challenges.
Fujii had fought several times in North America before 2010, but they had been one-off affairs; Bellator was the first Western promotion to make the necessary investment in the women’s strawweight division to offer a long-term relationship. While her first fights in Bellator had been a continuation of her customary dominance, including a submission win over Carla Esparza, who would go on to win the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship 115-pound belt a few years later, Zoila Frausto was the first opponent who represented the reality of American MMA. Where Fujii had thrived against Asian strawweights, who were bigger than her but not ridiculously so, Frausto—who was married to UFC veteran Jorge Gurgel at the time and went by her married surname—cut substantial water weight to make the 115-pound limit. At the face-offs as well as in the cage, “The Warrior Princess” enjoyed an obvious advantage in height, length and muscle mass.
However, to imply that Frausto’s success at Bellator 34 was entirely due to the size disparity does a disservice to both fighters. It also does a disservice to the fight itself, which was a fast-paced barnburner that left both women black and blue. The first two rounds in particular were characterized by a surprising willingness on the part of each woman to test the other’s strengths: Fujii gamely went after Frausto on the feet, including a nice head kick in the first round, while Frausto showed no particular fear of Fujii’s submission prowess on the occasions when they did go to the ground.
After five hard-fought rounds, Frausto prevailed by split decision, winning the strawweight grand prix and inaugural Bellator title that had been more or less created for Fujii. While the fight was very close and the decision open for debate, it would be a gross overstatement to call it a robbery, and the MMA media of record that night was split perfectly down the middle.
With the loss, Fujii’s 22-fight winning streak, the longest of its kind in top-level MMA at the time, was over. So too was her air of invincibility; even if the scorecards had gone her way that night, Fujii had taken more punishment from Frausto than in any five of her previous fights combined. The 36-year-old judoka would fight just six more times, going 4-2 against some of the best up-and-coming talent in the sport, before retiring in 2013.
Related Articles »
• The MMA Hall of [email protected]#$%&g Awesome: Megumi Fujii