(Go gentle into that good night, hot secretary. /Photo via Sherdog)
The writing’s been on the wall for a some time now — Bellator didn’t put on any women’s fights during their brief 2013 Summer Series, only featured three women’s bouts during all of Season 8, and hasn’t hosted a women’s tournament since 2010. Last night, Bjorn Rebney released a statement confirming that their last three contracted female fighters have been released, and that Bellator will no longer be promoting women’s MMA:
“Jessica Eye, Jessica Aguilar and Felice Herrig represent all that is good in women’s MMA. Both Eye and Aguilar are ranked No. 1 in the world in their respective divisions and carry themselves with class and distinction, elevating the women’s game. I’ve said many times that fighters need to fight, and fight often. Given our current focus, we are not in a position to provide these very deserving women regular and recurring fights on a large platform, and I felt it was best to let them go and secure options that did. I genuinely wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors and will be rooting for each of them wherever they fight.”
Since the arrival of Invicta FC last year, followed by the debut of female bantamweights in the UFC, the marketplace for women’s MMA has become much more competitive. Bellator’s early efforts to promote women’s fighting were admirable, but at some point they began to lose interest. Notably, Bellator virtually forgot about Zoila Frausto after she won the promotion’s inaugural strawweight tournament, and there’s been nothing resembling a long-term strategy for women in Bellator since then. Essentially, there are other promotions doing women’s MMA much better these days, and with bigger stars. (See: Rousey, Cyborg.) Seems like a good time to walk away.
Though Eye, Aguilar, and Herrig are all too small to find homes in the UFC’s bantamweight division, strawweight Felice Herrig has already signed a multi-fight contract with Invicta FC, and will make her debut later this year:
“I couldn’t be happier than I am now, after signing with Invicta FC,” said Herrig. “I have seen them do so much for women and really give them a chance to shine. I don’t think anyone realized how big Invicta FC would become, and I am truly proud to say I have found a home with them.”
Herrig, who went 3-0 under the Bellator banner — and quickly became the best reason to watch their weigh-ins — has won her last four fights by decision. Invicta features a stacked roster at 115 pounds, led by champion Carla Esparza, and featuring a pack of exciting contenders and prospects like Rose Namajunas, Bec Hyatt, Tecia Torres, Claudia Gadelha, and Joanne Calderwood. It’s the best place in the world for a female strawweight looking for bigger opportunities, and Herrig will make a great addition. Best of luck, Lil’ Bulldog.