When Joanne Calderwood meets Valerie Letourneau on June 18 at UFC Fight Night 89, a little slice of UFC history will be made. The fight is being billed as a "special flyweight attraction" and is expected to be contested at 125 pounds, rather than the 115-pound strawweight division for which both women have grown accustomed.
The UFC currently has two women's divisions, bantamweight and strawweight, and has stated that the bout between Calderwood and Letourneau is for now only a one-off. It is a stroke of good luck for Calderwood though, and further proof that in the fight game, it pays to ask for what you want.
Calderwood said Monday that the idea originated when UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby called and asked her to fight on seven weeks' notice at UFC Fight Night 89. Calderwood wanted to accept the fight, however it usually takes her upwards of 10 weeks to cut down to the strawweight limit, so she wondered if it could be contested at a catchweight instead.
"I just asked him out there, like, (take a) chance," Calderwood said on The MMA Hour. "I knew I was asking for him to be like, ‘shut up b*tch and get on with your day, you've signed your contract at 115.' But actually he got back to me and he was like, ‘I'll let you know.'
"Then, next time, he was like, ‘okay, what about Valerie at 125?' I was like perfect, let's do it. He was like, ‘okay, I'll try and get the green light.' Then he did, and Bob's your uncle, what you don't ask for, you don't get."
The long-shot worked, and Calderwood is now set to unofficially debut the division in the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 89. Her opponent, Letourneau, is another large strawweight who tends to have difficult weight cuts down to 115, and Calderwood expects a less stressful camp for both women ahead of June 18.
"I could probably make 115 in the next seven weeks, but I just didn't want to kill myself," Calderwood said. "It's been hard. I haven't been walking around at my normal walk-around weight. When I did it when I was going into the (The Ultimate Fighter) house, 10 months before, and then when I was in the house, I was miserable. I was like eating two eggs and just chicken and spinach.
"I just don't want to walk around like that. Obviously I want to walk around healthy and happy, so it's been hard. Usually when I make 115, I usually need like 10 weeks' notice and just bring it down gradually. But the fights that were coming up were like short notice. If it's 125, I could easily make these fights and I could take them on short notice. But 115, it'd kill me."
When the UFC announced the fight, it emphasized that Calderwood vs. Letourneau would not mark the launch of a new women's division. However the 20-pound gap between strawweight and bantamweight is a vast one, and the UFC did open the door by stating that it was "looking into possibly opening a women's flyweight division in the future."
Calderwood hopes that happens. She said 125 pounds is a more natural division for her and fighting at that weight would allow her to be more active by taking short notice bouts. And in that regard, she knows she's not alone.
"I think there's going to be a lot of girls who want to come down and want to come up," Calderwood said. "So I think an interesting thing to do. I don't know if it will (become a new division) or not, but you know what the UFC is like, they're usually one step ahead and they probably have maybe been thinking about it. Let's hope they have been."