For a dose of real-life, kick-butt inspiration, we're turning to the women of mixed martial arts (MMA), specifically the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). We've rounded up the women leading the charge to help you get motivated for your next workout.
Mixed Martial Arts vs. Ultimate Fighting Championship
MMA is the actual sport while UFC is a league within the sport. The easiest way to explain it? Alex Lee, social news editor at MMAFighting.com, says it's like basketball is the sport, while the NBA is a league. "Fighters compete in MMA, but they can fight for the UFC or any number of other organizations," he says.
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UFC is the largest and most successful MMA promotion by far, with Bellator MMA being number two in North America. "But there are hundreds of smaller promotions in North America and across the globe that put together MMA shows," Lee says.
Read more: 9 Totally Awesome Muay Thai Benefits
The Best Female MMA Fighters
The current best female MMA fighters are typically whoever is at the top of their weight classes in the UFC, says Lee (see below for that list). However, there are notable champions in other promotions who are considered to be close to that level. Lee includes:
- Liz Carmouche: flyweight, 125 pounds, Bellator Women's Flyweight World Champion
- Juliana Velasquez: flyweight, 125 pounds
- Cris Cyborg: featherweight, 145 pounds
- Larissa Pacheco: featherweight, 146 pounds
The Best Female UFC Fighters
According to Lee, the top female UFC fighters in each division are:
But there are several other top fighters in the UFC, well-known for different reasons, he says. Detailed below is a list by weight class to sum up why each female fighter is so highly regarded.
Strawweight Fighters (115 Pounds and Under)
Flyweight Fighters (116 to 125 Pounds)
Bantamweight Fighters (126 to 135 Pounds)
Want to Learn More About MMA?
Begin by watching the UFC. It's an accessible product that runs dozens of free shows throughout the year, and for the most part, you're guaranteed at least two or three high-level fights per show. You can also catch some UFC fights on ESPN+, Amazon Prime, and Showtime.
"There was a time when there was maybe a handful of UFC shows a year for people to watch, but the sport of MMA itself boomed in the 2000s, and now there is a UFC event almost every week in addition to shows from other promotions," Lee says.
From there, you'll start to learn the rules as well as what makes a good fight, a good fighter and good technique vs. bad technique. Then look into other promotions and fighters from there.