There’s a first time for everything and we’re seeing it more and more in the UFC. This year viewers watched the first UFC’s pay-per-view fight headlined with women fighters. Now as we roll into the new year, the UFC has a few more surprises in store.
The UFC will be mixing things up in 2014 with the first all girls season of TUF where, also for the first time, a champion will be decided during the season finale in May.
Another first, the UFC has added a new weight class for 115-pound fighters, called “Strawweight.” During a phone interview on Wednesday, White said “The 135-pound division has been very successful for us, the fans like it, I’m thrilled with it, and we’re going to dive into the 115-pound division now.”
During the conference call White announced the fighters, all coming from Invicta, also known as the world’s leading women’s MMA organization.
1: Carla “ Cookie Monster” Esparza, 26, is the first and present Invicta Strawweight Champion of Invicta. She’s 5’1″ and 125lbs with a 9-2 record.
She jumped into the world of mixed martial arts when she started wrestlingfor the varsity team during her junior year at Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California.
After winning multiple local and national high school wrestling tournaments, Esparza was awarded a scholarship to Menlo College and wrestled under coach and former two-time Olympian Lee Allen.
At Menlo College, Esparza started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the Gracie Academy in Torrance under Rener, Ryron, and Ralek Gracie.
2: Alex “Astro Girl” Chambers, 35, 5’3 and 104 pounds with a 4-1 record in MMA.
Alex Chambers was an Atomweight but has recently jumped up to Strawweight. Chambers has trained in martial arts since childhood, originally with Karate simply for the self-defense and discipline benefits.
She has fought on three continents and has trained under legendary Japanese pioneer Megumi Fuji.
3: Felice “Lil Bulldog” Herrig, 29, 5’5” and 115 pounds with a history in kickboxing. She currently holds a 9-5 record but has won 4 of her last 5 fights.
Herrig began her career in kickboxing and Muay Thai before transitioning to MMA in 2009. She has a kickboxing record of 23-5-4 and is currently the #2 rank in the World in the IKF International Kickboxing Federation Pro Women’s Muay Thai Bantamweight Division.
4: Emily Kagan, 32, is 5’3” and 115 pounds with a 3-1 record. Emily Kagan fights with Team Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts.
In her last fight she defeated Ashley Cummings by split decision at Invicta FC 6 Cyborf vs.Coenen 2.
5. Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood, 26, is 5’6” and 116 pounds with a staggering 8-0 record a including 4 knockouts.
She specializes in Muay Thai and most recently won a fight by unanimous decision against Katia Kankaanpää On December 7, 2013, at Invicta FC 7.
6. Paige “12 Gauge” VanZant, 19, is 5’4” 115 pounds with a 3-1 record.
Although only 19, VanZant does have some history with MMA. She has been a ring card girl for Shark Fights and Ultimate Reno Combat. She’s now preparing to take the MMA world by storm as she tries to maintain her momentum from beating Courtney Himes in the first round by rear naked choke submission.
7. Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres, 24, is 5’1” and 116 pounds with a 4-0 record. Torres currently trains out of the famous American Top Team camp in Florida.
She has unanimous decision wins over several fighters including Kaiyana Rain, Paige VanZant, Rose Namajunas and Felice Herrig.
8. Claudia Gadelha, 23, is 5’3”, 115 pounds with a dominating 11-0 record. Gadelha trains at Nova Uniao with current UFC Featherweight Champion José Aldo, current Bellator Bantamweight Champion Eduardo Dantas, current Interim UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barão, and many more noteworthy fighters.
Adelha earned her first TKO in her 9th fight on September 21, 2012 when her punches took down Adriana Vieira at Shooto Brazil 34. She is the youngest to achieve black belt status in Nova Uniao history
9. Bec “Rowdy” Hyatt, 24, is 5’6”, 116 with a 5-3 record. Hyatt is the 9th ranked strawweight fighter according to the Unified Women’s Mixed Martial Arts Rankings. She’s extremely popular in the MMA community. In she won WMMA’s 2012 Award for Favourite Female Fighter with 265 votes by the fans.
Of her 5 wins on her record, only one had to go to decision, finishing fights quickly by submission twice, by TKO and by Technical Submission (rear-naked choke)
10. Juliana “Ju Thai” Lima, 31, is 5’6” and 115 pounds with a 6-1 record. Lima fights out of the Gracie Barra BH camp and returned to competition in September racking up two victories in twenty days.
Lima defeated 5-1 Kimberly Tanaka Novaes in her third fight, winning with takedowns and ground-and-pound which lead to a unanimous decision victory.
11. Rose “Thug” Namajunas, 21, is 5’5” and 115 pounds with a 2-0 record. Namajunas fights out of the Grudge Training Centerand has a black belt in Teakwondo.
In high school, she started training kickboxing and mixed martial arts with Duke Roufus at Roufusport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
White added that the UFC will likely have tryouts to fill out the final five roster spots for this upcoming 20th season of TUF. Stay tuned for more news on that end in early 2014.