Last weekend, Ana “The Hurricane” Julaton made her long-awaited Bellator MMA debut at the Foxwoods Casino and Resort in Connecticut. The fight, which was bumped up to the main card after both King Mo and Liam McGeary fell victim to injury, would be Julaton’s big U.S. debut against a seemingly inexperienced Lisa Blaine (1-0).
However, after a hard-fought three rounds of back and forth action that saw Julaton on her back and utilizing kicks instead of her stand-up striking strong suit, Julaton lost a close split decision to Blaine.
Subsequently, undefeated boxing world champion Heather “The Heat” Hardy, who had made her MMA debut at Bellator 180, was also on the card. Hardy would be the recipient of the beatdown and fell victim to a referee stoppage in the second round with a vicious head kick from Kristina Williams that broke her nose.
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From the dawn of time, combat sports have always begged an answer to the question, which fighting style can conquer all? The early days of the UFC tried to provide an answer with Sumo wrestlers vs. karate masters and so on.
However, the challenges were more freak show than true competition. Then a little Brazilian jiu-jitsu grappler named Royce Gracie came and changed the narrative, forcing all to respect the “gentle art” and perhaps go a step further towards the assertion of a dominant style.
Still, fans embraced the fact that in the world of sports commerce, there are distinct barriers between MMA, kickboxing and boxing, and specialists in each should stay in their respective lanes.
Women boxers, however, have had to make some concessions due to a lack of interest in their bouts. Not since Laila Ali has a woman boxer been able to garner true headline-worthy bouts that create a lucrative career.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist and world champion Claressa Shields is currently on the rise but has yet to garner the buzz of a huge pay-per-view bout.
Claressa Shields impresses in TKO victory and improves to 4-0 over former WBC world champion Nikki Adler to become the new unified WBC and IBF Super Middleweight champion.
Many in the boxing world felt that its women stars are leaving to go to MMA due to the success Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Holly Holm have brought to the sport. They are true headliners and pay-per-view stars in MMA, receiving larger notoriety for their athleticism then they would or had, in Holm’s case, in boxing.
With Julaton now 2-3 and Hardy now 1-1 with a TKO on her loss column, is it unfair that women boxers feel the need to compete in another sport to survive as athletes?
While the truth is probably closer to their extreme ambition being the motivating factor, one can definitely ascertain that there lies a larger opportunity in being a two-sport athlete for a woman boxer. It is almost disrespectful that Conor McGregor can fight Floyd Mayweather and be considered a pioneer when women like Holly Holm, Ana Julaton and Heather Hardy had tested their mettle in both sports before him.
But when the predominantly male demographic isn’t supporting their efforts en mass the same way they are for the men, popular opinion might dictate that these boxers are risking their lives even more in a sport they are ill-equipped to handle just to survive.