(She’s a witch! Burn her! BURRRRRRN HERRRRRRRRRRR!!! / Photo via Fight! Magazine)
So here’s a weird little tidbit: The UFC’s next women’s bantamweight fight between Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano was originally supposed to serve as the co-main event for UFC on Fuel TV: Gustafsson vs. Mousasi (April 6th; Stockholm, Sweden), but it was reportedly sunk due to political concerns, and the matchup was moved to the TUF 17 Finale. After Ariel Helwani first mentioned the date-switch, Fighters Only followed up with more details:
The fight was pulled because it was felt by Garry Cook, the UFC VP in charge of UK and European operations, that it wasn’t suited to the Swedish audience.
Sweden is a new market and there is still some considerable opposition to the UFC among that infamously liberal and ‘progressive’ nation’s press. Politically it is a very left-wing country and it was only in 2007 that a 1970 ban on professional boxing was lifted.
Alexander Gustafsson has spearheaded the charge into what has proven to be an unexpectedly lucrative market for the UFC, but the potential for the national press to dislike or misinterpret a women’s fight was felt to be too high to risk.
For the fight to turn out to be a bloodbath would have been especially damaging…A new co-main has not been announced for the Stockholm card, but the mood on the messageboards among Swedish fans is generally one of relief that the female fight was scrapped — and not just because of the risk it poses to the sport. Progressive as they are, it seems even the Swedish fans [aren't] particularly excited about female MMA either.
In general, Swedish support for the UFC has been fantastic so far — which makes this story even more disheartening. Keep in mind that Sweden is a country that invented a new pronoun to promote their oddball obsession with gender-neutrality. The most recent World Economic Forum report on global gender equality ranked Sweden #4 in the world out of 135 countries; the U.S. landed at a totally respectable #22. So to summarize, gender-differences don’t exist in Sweden — except in the context of cage-fighting, in which women are delicate flowers that need to be protected by men who know better.
I’m actually skeptical about this whole story, to be honest. You can look at MMA message boards in any country and find pockets of fans who don’t care for women’s MMA, and there are newspaper editorial writers in every major city who would declare a bloody fight between two women to be the end of modern civilization.
When Garry Cook made the decision to move a female fight off of UFC on FUEL 9, he had these concerns in mind. (And hell, I’ll just say it — maybe his own tastes were a factor as well.) But instead of presenting a great matchup to a crowd of enthusiastic UFC fans, he buckled under the pressure. Sure, some of those Swedish fans might have been disgusted or disinterested in Tate vs. Zingano. But maybe the fight could have helped change some perceptions.