Women’s mixed martial arts had been around for a long time. There had been all-women fight cards and all-women promotions. Women had headlined fight cards on CBS and Showtime, drawing excellent ratings.
The UFC was late to the game when it came to including women on fight cards, and former Invicta FC atomweight champion and TUF 20 cast member Jessica Penne feels women should have been in the biggest MMA fight promotion a long time ago.
“I feel like this opportunity has been a really long time coming. I feel like myself and the other women in the sport have been working hard and have been very unrecognized for our efforts in the sport,” Penne recently told MMAWeekly.com.
Rousey was the right personality with the right face at the right time to break through the barriers that held back women’s fighting, and she delivered in a big way inside the cage. Rousey’s rise opened the door for women to compete on MMA’s biggest stage.
“When Ronda Rousey came around, it was the light at the end of the tunnel kind of thing. It was so exciting to see that. Women were finally getting noticed,” said the 31-year-old Penne.
The rough road that women’s fighting has traveled from the local promotions like Hook N Shoot to the all-women organizations like Invicta FC and eventually landing in the UFC has been a long one. Penne has logged many miles on the route to recognition.
“It has been really difficult. You go through people not taking you seriously. You go through not being able to pay your bills because you’re chasing after a dream. It’s really difficult, and it’s just been a crazy up-and-down ride,” she said.
Penne moved up a weight class to compete on The Ultimate Fighter 20 because the opportunity at UFC gold was too tempting to pass up. The reality series premiers on Fox Sports 1 on Wednesday.