Women fighting their way into the martial arts

Rhys Williams/ Staff Writer

Going into 2013, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC as it is more commonly known, was a males-only event that had become extremely popular around the country. A change occurred in February, however, that can be explained in one simple word: women.

 On Feb. 23, Ronda Rousey fought Liz Carmouche in the first ever UFC fight featuring women where Rousey defeated Carmouche in UFC 157.

 Students, both men and women, are getting involved in martial arts at FIU, with organizations like the Brazilian Jujitsu club, headed by Ricky Smeglia, a junior recreation and sports management major.

“Women have been getting more involved and we have gone from one or two to six or seven in the past academic year,” Smeglia said. “Once they get over the shyness of being involved, they seem to like it more.”

  Smeglia has been an instructor of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for a several years and enjoys having women in his classes but does not believe the change will last long in the UFC.

 “Any fighter must fit under criteria to be in the UFC. Rousey and Carmouche did so but I think it will be awhile before there are a lot of UFC fighting [for women], because for now it will be a slow work in progress,” Smeglia said. “I believe every sport has some controversy that goes with it but I have nothing against it personally. They are being equally viewed and accepted and segregation is becoming less and less. Even though I do not believe that they can get to the full potential that a man can, they can train as hard and are just as capable to be involved in athletics.”

 Some women who got involved with Smeglia’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes are junior Becky Fernandez and sophomore Fanny Rodriguez. Fernandez doesn’t view it as solely a hobby.

“I have been doing martial arts for about a year. I think of it as a pastime of mine that helps me with both exercise and self-defense,” Fernandez said.

Even if the UFC were to open its doors wider to women fighters, Fernandez, an international relations and Asian studies major, said she would not take her skills to that level.

Rodriguez, who has been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for almost seven months, already acknowledges that she recommends it to her friends.

“To my friends that I recommend it to, both male and female, I tell them that they have to be a bit open minded when they are first beginning with it and then some great, in my opinion and experience, life changes begin to happen with mind and body,” Rodriguez said.

As long as both of these women have been participating in martial arts and as exciting as it could have been to watch the first female UFC match, neither watched the fight due to various reasons.

 “I was going to watch it but I had to work so I missed it,” Fernandez said.

Yannick Saez, the president of the Mixed-Martial Arts club at FIU, and other members of the club, were unavailable for comment at the time of publishing.

About the Author

Rhys Williams
: Sports Director, Class of 2016, Physical Education: Coaching (Major), Communication Arts (Minor), Sports Enthusiast with a Focus on Football and Track & Field.