The UFC is jumping feet-first into the women’s strawweight pond. On Wednesday evening, UFC president Dana White announced they have acquired 11 115-pounders from Invicta FC.
The ladies will compete in an all-women’s edition of “The Ultimate Fighter,” with the tournament winner becoming the UFC’s first strawweight champion. Filming for the show begins on May 18.
“The women’s 135-pound division in the UFC has been amazing and we know there are a ton of talented women’s mixed martial artists out there,” White said. “Now, you’ll see even more great women’s bouts in the UFC with the addition of the 115-pound division. We’re excited to crown the first-ever UFC women’s strawweight champion in 2014 after a historic season of The Ultimate Fighter.”
Current Invicta strawweight champ Carla Esparza (pictured), Felice Herrig, Rose Namajunas, Tecia Torres, Bec Hyatt, Claudia Gadelha, Juliana Lima, Joanne Calderwood, Emily Peters Kagan, Paige Vanzant and Alex Chambers will all be taking their talents to the Octagon.
Five additional fighters will be selected for the tourney via tryouts. Coaches for the show have not been assigned.
Despite claiming for months that the bantamweight division would be the only class the UFC would offer for women, White did an about-face in November and announced they would test the strawweight waters.
Ronda Rousey was anointed the UFC’s first female champion when the promotion acquired her rights from now-defunct Strikeforce. She defended her title against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 this past February and has since become arguably the UFC’s biggest crossover superstar.
In addition to Rousey’s success, White said this last season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which featured women for the first time in the show’s 18-season run, drew 44 percent better ratings for FOX Sports 1 when the ladies fight than with men fighting.