Bellator Dynamite 2: A Massive Step for Women’s Combat Sports

June 24th will be a big night for women’s MMA.

Bellator Dynamite 2, the second MMA-kickboxing hybrid event held by Bellator MMA, is scheduled for June 24th, and besides featuring many notable male contests, it is home to quite a few top-quality female fights, and more specifically, is a massive step for women’s combat sports in general.

To understand its significance for women’s combat sports, the overall nature of the event must first be examined; from top to bottom, Dynamite 2 is stacked to the brim with outstanding matches. In the main event of the evening, former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will compete against the up-and-coming MMA athlete and elite Judoka Satoshi Ishii.

The co-main event features a lightweight rematch between promotional-staples Michael Chandler (who is also the former champion) and the all-action Patricky Freire, in a bout that promises to be thrilling. In their first contest, Chandler walked-away with the unanimous decision (this was back in 2011, however).

Former UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione will make his promotional debut against Carl Seumanutafa, and in the kickboxing ring, Justin Houghton will clash with Kevin Ross. To round-out the main card, Denise Kielholtz will meet Gloria Peritore in kickboxing once again, while Ilima-Lei Macfarlane will lock horns with Rebecca Ruth in MMA; both fights will be contested at flyweight.

Additionally, Dynamite 2’s explosive fourteen-fight preliminary portion includes an abundance of appealing bouts—the best of which may very well be a featherweight tilt between the TUF veteran and ever-improving fighter Justin Lawrence and Japanese star Isao Kobayashi.

In short, Bellator Dynamite 2 is must-watch television.

And that’s a big part of the reason why it’s so important for women’s combat sports.

It’s not much of a secret that kickboxing has yet to really “catch-on” with North American viewers. Glory Kickboxing’s ultimate move away from Spike TV, largely because of low ratings despite high-quality fights, demonstrates this, as does the fact that they were, besides Bellator, the only promotion to attempt to bring the sport to this part of the world.

This lack of interest held true for male and female competitors alike, but the truth is that, as in boxing, men were provided with most of the limited limelight; a female division was just recently added to Glory, and women’s boxing fights simply weren’t broadcast. For instance, former UFC bantamweight champion Holly Holm is a phenomenal striker who holds the distinction of being a multi-time world champion in the Sweet Science. The problem is, almost no one had heard of her before she competed in MMA, and more pressingly, very few had seen her boxing fights.

A slot for a women’s kickboxing bout on a massive card like Dynamite 2, which will be enjoyed by millions, simply hadn’t been provided before Denise Kielholtz vs Gloria Peritore was booked. This match could very well be the first measure towards building a sizable public and global interest in kickboxing, for women—and perhaps even for men as well. It’s an investment not just in kickboxing, but in stand-up fighting’s female stars.

The other female fight featured on Dynamite 2’s main card—Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs Rebecca Ruth—is similarly important. It goes without saying that the massive stage these skilled women have to compete upon is awesome, and appropriate for their abilities and current career standings (Ruth is coming off of an impressive upset over Lena Ovchynnikova, and has lost only once to date, while Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is undefeated through three fights). But, it’s the weight class that their bout is being contested at that makes their stage so very important.

The UFC, probably to concentrate talent in their ever-popular bantamweight class and to bolster their strawweight standings, have resisted creating a women’s flyweight division (this was probably thought to help them reaffirm the dominance of their bantamweight champion, who they likely expected to be Ronda Rousey for quite a while); while Joanne Calderwood and Valérie Létourneau just competed at flyweight, it was more of a matter of convenience than a sign of a new weight class. To be sure, Calderwood has voiced her plans to return to strawweight.

Until Bellator committed to establishing such a division (a champion will be crowned in the near future as well), women who wanted to compete on a massive stage, but were too small for bantamweight and too large for strawweight, were between a rock and a hard place (check the aforementioned title challenger Valérie Létourneau’s worrying analysis of her weight cut down to 115 lbs.).

Now, skilled female athletes who are well-suited for flyweight, like men, have the opportunity to showcase their abilities in a world-class promotion and on a once again large stage. In the long run, this will help female athletes in quite a few ways.

As was said, Bellator Dynamite 2 is stacked with awesome fights, and although there aren’t many pundits or reporters speaking of its importance for women’s combat sports, it should be known that it is a massive step in the right direction–that of more exposure, bigger paychecks, and more fans– for every female athlete.

Temporarily disregarding the obviously important MMA flyweight bout, the reality remains that we could be watching the next Holly Holm (or her kickboxing equivalent) compete on national television, come June 24th. Imagine if “The Preacher’s Daughter” had been properly marketed, on an appropriately sized stage, at any point during her eleven-year boxing career.

There’s no telling where she—or the sport—would be right now, and the magnitude of Dynamite 2’s investment in talented female fighters who wouldn’t otherwise have a large stage to compete upon is indicative of the promotion’s overall commitment to the female stars of tomorrow.

This commitment can only be classified as game-changing.

Be sure to frequent Athena Sports Net for all the newest women’s sports developments, news, and opinions. You can read my last article, which highlights the importance of Jessica Andrade’s UFC 199 victory, here.


Max King