There’s no denying that MMA is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world – it’s got everyone hooked, or at least intrigued, from athletes to pop stars, guys and girls all being included in the demographic of fans that the UFC boasts.
The UFC can sleep sound with the knowledge that they’ve made massive progress both for the sport and as a company in recent years: in 2012, women were introduced into the organisation, and in 2014 a second women’s division was announced. Although the men’s division still has eight weight categories to shout about while the women can only claim two, it’s safe to say that it’s female bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, who’s the talk of the UFC town. Since claiming the title in December 2012, she’s become a true crossover star, with appearances on huge US show Jimmy Kimmel Live and cameos in Hollywood blockbusters The Expendables 3 and Entourage both firmly under her shiny championship belt.
Despite how popular the UFC has been in the past though, it was only last week that it officially launched its partnership with Reebok. Prior to this deal, no major sportswear brand had ever made specific training gear for combat sports – hard to believe since MMA is seriously sky-rocketing the numbers of people taking up martial arts. More problematic though is the difficulty professional fighters have experienced in finding gear that actually works while training and fighting. And what makes it extra hard? Being a woman. ‘Being a woman who does combat sports, there has never really been anything designed for us,’ explains Ronda Rousey. ‘So I’ve always been forced to try and make do with clothing that was designed for something entirely different.’ Ever tried running in a yoga bra? Then you’ll understand the issue.
‘Women have different requirements because we have different bodies,’ she adds. ‘I’d always get annoyed when my lats would hang out the back of a [sports] bra and it would just look terrible – so we needed something rigid at the front and loose at the back.’
It’s not all talk and no action, either. Ronda made sure she worked hands on with the Reebok team getting this kit ready – after all, she’d be wearing the stuff day in, day out while training (4 hours a day!) for her championship bouts. ‘I went to the Reebok campus and talked to them about the shorts,’ she says. ‘They sent me several different types and I was going back and forth with them. We thought of having a grip on the inside of the leg – and they also came up with the no-seam technology.’ The result? A gentle grip that stops the shorts from riding up while allowing the thigh to maintain its natural shape – no adjusting, just comfort.
Reebok’s deal with the UFC also just about confirms how MMA-crazy the world is getting. Dana White, President of the UFC, praises the women for being so integral in the deal, too: ‘There’s no doubt that the women have helped seal the deal,’ he says. ‘Ronda and Joanna [Jedrzejczyk – the female UFC strawweight champion] alone are so badass and changing the way everybody looks at women – definitely the way people look at women’s fighting, anyway.’
So what do you guys want to see next? A new weight division for women? We’d personally love to see Joanna – who hails from Poland – defend her title in Europe so we can see the champ up close. Let us know on Twitter!