If mixed martial arts can still accurately lay claim to the title of The Fastest Growing Sport in the World, then the introduction/expansion of Women's MMA is the catalyst for its continued growth. The inclusion of WMMA in larger promotions like Bellator and Strikeforce helped the sport gain legitimacy, while its recent addition to the UFC has led to a previously unfathomable level of success and popularity.
The story of WMMA has been one of superstar brand-building and marquee fights. Gina Carano, Cristiane Santos, Ronday Rousey - these are all pioneers for a subsection of a 20 year old sport with an even younger history of female competitors. On August 15th 2009, Stirkeforce put on the first major WMMA Main Event, a Women's Featherweight Championship bout between Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg. When Cyborg finished the fight via TKO with just one second left in the first round, she became the first ever female champion in a major MMA promotion. When Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche headlined UFC 157, female fighters had finally reached the peak of MMA's largest stage, and on February 23rd 2013, the world had its first and only Women's UFC Champion, launching Ronda Rousey into superstardom with the future of the sport, in many ways, resting on her shoulders.
So it should come as no surprise that we are on the verge of entering a brand new era of WMMA. Just as the Royce Gracies and Ken Shamrocks of the world paved the way for fighters like Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, a new crop of female fighters are preparing to take the sport to even greater heights, writing their names in the history books and steering the legacy of mixed martial arts towards a brighter tomorrow.
Allow me to introduce you to Maegan Goodwin. Maegan is an amateur mixed martial artist with a 4-0 record and aspirations to turn her passion into a career. But like most fighters, becoming a professional was not always on her radar.
When I first started, to be honest, I didn't see it as a career. I saw it as a pastime and something I enjoyed doing. I thought I would do it for a while as an ammy, and when I graduated college, I would move on to a career in my field.
With fighters like Rousey and Cyborg reaching such great heights, it wasn't long before Goodwin was intoxicated with similar aspirations.
These are amazing, talented women who I look up to, and I decided if I worked hard enough, I could make a life out of something I love doing like they did.
But how realistic is this goal? After all, my friends and I dreamed of one day becoming pro athletes too, and now I'm doing, well, this. Make no mistake, however, Maegan Goodwin is no fly-by-night fighter with a pipe dream. At 5'11", with well-rounded technique and explosive athleticism, Goodwin provides a steep challenge for her fellow 135ers. Think Jessamyn Duke, with identical height, reach, and years of experience, yet five years younger.
Scary, I know.
But as we've learned through years of disappointment and lost bets, simply having a reach advantage does not automatically mean you know how to use it. Unfortunately for her future opponents, Goodwin is well aware of how her size translates to the cage, understanding both the advantages and the shortcomings of her unique frame.
That's the main thing I tie into all my work during practice. I'm very long and much taller than my opponents and I love it! I definitely use my jab a lot, along with my kicks, to keep them away. The only real problem I run into is takedowns. It's way easier to take me down verses a girl that's, say, 5'5".
If you're wondering if Goodwin would be a better fit for featherweight than bantamweight, you're not alone. I asked her if 135 was her ideal weight class or simply the division with the greatest amount of opportunities.
Ha, good question. No, honestly, it's not my ideal weight. I'm more comfortable at featherweight, but, like you said, bantam is where all the opportunity lies. I'm going to fight my next fight (possibly next two) at 145 lbs then drop back down. You can imagine how lovely a 135 cut is for a girl my height.
So when can we expect to see Goodwin make her pro debut?
I had to take quite a while off, unfortunately, due to my broken hand and school. I haven't fought since September, but will be announcing my come back fight Friday on MMA Jam Live. I plan to do this next fight local, and then one more before turning pro, probably later this year.
As far as where the 22 year old up and comer plans on getting her feet wet as a pro, her choice seems rather clear.
I do have my sights set on Invicta! I think it's huge. It's obviously a big deal since that's where the majority of the UFC talent is picked from. I love the promotion, Shannon, Julie, and all the talent they have there. Invicta is doing big things and I most definitely want to be a part of the ride. I'm very excited for my future.
Allow me to speak on behalf of everyone in the Water Cooler MMA community; we are too. You can follow Maegan Goodwin on twitter or check out her facebook page. She will be announcing her next fight on MMA Jam Live this Friday, March 28th, so tune in for that!