Shooto Brazil has announced that on December 20th in Rio de Janeiro, Emerson Falcao will square off against Juliana Velasquez in a bantamweight MMA fight. Falcao’s career MMA fight record is 0-1 and he comes from a kickboxing background. This will be Velasquez’s first MMA fight but she is an experienced jujitsu competitor. Due to an injury Falcao wasn’t planning on fighting until 2014 but evidently he is healthy enough…to fight a woman. I’m not sure what the intentions are behind this fight, whether the organizers think this is a legitimately fair fight or if this is a promotional stunt but it definitely presents an interesting scenario. However, the fight might not even happen because a member of the Brazilian Mixed Martial Arts Confederation, Osiris Maia, argues that “both athletes must be in the same level, so there’s no way a man should be allowed to fight a woman”. The Confederation will wait for the Thursday weigh-in to decide whether or not to proceed with the fight.
I have an ambivalent perspective on this one. My gut says, YES Velasquez you get in there and hold your own. Show the world what it has been afraid to know – that men and woman can compete against each other. On the other hand, she has never fought and this could just be another strike against gender equality in sports. As far as Falcao goes, I think he is in a lose-lose regardless of what happens in the ring. If he wins most fans will say “of course” and if he loses I’m sure there will be plenty of “you lost to a girl” commentary. And in response to Maia’s comment that men and women are in no way on the same level I think that scaling the fight weights might be a good way to level the physiological field. In other words, maybe a female bantamweight could fight a men’s flyweight. But I don’t know, I’ve never fought competitively so I don’t know what would be an even match. I would love to read your thoughts on the matter: should women be allowed to fight with the men? Is physically fighting any different from men and women competing in any other sport such as hockey, soccer, or basketball? Did Billie Jean King’s win over Bobby Riggs change much for tennis (both conceptually and practically)?
Here is what Zane Simon from The Bloody Elbow has to say:
Even as a fairly dedicated feminist the idea of this fight makes me intensely uncomfortable.
If Velasquez wins (and I don’t doubt that there’s plenty of women in the world that can beat up plenty of men in the world) what the upside? What does MMA as a community establish? I can’t see any way forward that starts regularly putting on professional fights between men and women. For a sport that many consider to be pure spectacle and bloodsport the backlash could be crippling.