Women, Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing

By Tom Donelson, BASN boxing writer
Updated: December 3, 2011

IOWA CITY, IOWA–(BASN)-Women are becoming more prominent in Mixed Martial Arts and boxing, not just as fighters but promoters as well. Or they are becoming fans in increasing numbers. Trish Poe, an aspiring model, writer and photographer, is representative of a new generation of combat sports fan. (She helps promote MMA companies including Lockdownfight gears on her Facebook page when not working as a model or photographer.)

Poe has been involved in the Mixed Martial Arts since she was six years and regularly trains to keep in shape and as she noted, “The reason that I train and fight relate a lot to those of the reasons why a man does it, a woman can do anything a man can.” This attitude reflects many of what I have observed of boxers and MMA stars and Ms.

Poe is also symbolic of why MMA has grown. As Trish Poe told me, she began her career at an early age of 6 and this reflects the advantages of MMA have over boxing today. When my dad and others his learned self-defense, they were sent to boxing ring but today, many will go to the local dojo to learn self-defense. During World War I and World War II, boxers were recruited to help soldiers learn self-defense, today a soldier will be taught techniques based on MMA.

There was a time when boxing gyms populated small towns but today, the ability to learn boxing is limited by the availability of gyms whereas there are more than enough dojos where one can learn the basic of Karate and martial arts. Many high schools have wrestling programs and if one lives in Iowa, wrestling is a big sport and many wrestlers drift toward MMA due to their knowledge of the ground game.

Over the past several years, women have become more prominent in sports. Ms.

Poe reflects what many women involved in boxing and MMA believe, when she told me, “As long as you have and give enough love and dedication to the sport you can succeed.” Ms. Poe takes that same attitude with her in her photographing and modeling career.

When asked her favorite fighter, she told me the UFC Welterweight champion George Saint Pierre who she views as a well-rounded and discipline fighter. MMA have been successful in attracting young fans like Trish Poe, who admitted, “I like many sports but MMA is the only one that has caught my full attention.” Gaining the attention of young fans is the key to a sports long term success.
Emily Klinefelter is representative of a new breed of combat sport, a woman who has done both before injuries shorten her career. She noted, “I knew nothing about fighting, or boxing, or MMA when I first set foot in the gym. I was only 16 when I first started, so at first I think it was more that boxing was just something “cool” to do. After a few months I got more serious about it and realized that I really enjoyed the one-on-one combat aspect of sparring and competition.”
Interesting, her frustration with boxing and boredoom with the sport led her to try the MMA. She noted, “MMA was always thrilling to me because there was so much more that could happen in an MMA fight than in boxing. Also, I wasn’t nearly as competent on the ground as I was on my feet so the fear that I could be put on my back contributed to the thrill of the fight.”
Presently, Ms. Klinefelter owns and run a MMA gym in Iowa City which features training in boxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu plus she is also a head coach of a boxing program and leads amateur boxers in competition. When asked about problems with women in combat sports, “First of all, I think many coaches view women differently than men and either don’t want to coach women, or think women are inherently less athletically competent than men and thus hold women to a lower standard.” Another problem that hurts women is the lack of female training partners and limited opportunities for matches. (Emily Klinefelter added that her coaches had no preconceived notions about women lack of ability and treated her like a male fighter.)
Emily Klinefelter discussed that it is nice to train with men but it is good to have other women who are similar in size and experience level and she had her younger sister to train with throughout the years. (Katy Klinefelter had an excellent amateur and an undefeated professional career.) With increase women participation in combat sports will lead to improvement in women skills. Having trained and lived in Iowa, she added, “Women in big cities obviously suffer less from both of these two problems, but for female fighters in smaller towns this will likely continue to be an obstacle for a very long time.” She added that she would like to see three minute rounds and 12 rounds for championship bouts, and noted that in Iowa, women do fight same rounds and round length as men. She stated, “A title fight for women is 20 total minutes of boxing, versus 36 minutes for men. There is no reason women can’t fight the same round length and number of rounds as men. These restrictions are insulting, unfair, and unfounded. The same goes for amateur women who box 4×2 minute rounds when amateur men box 3×3 minute rounds.” Another problem she noted, “However, the vast majority of majority of states where boxing is biggest restrict fights for women.” Like Ms. Poe, she views the combat sports as her primary love.
Amy Green has been fan of the sweet science of boxing since she was in grade school and watch fights with her dad. She remembered watching the Ali/Frazier trilogy and loved the heavyweights in the 70’s. Her dad loved Roberto Duran and both followed Sean O’ Grady, a very good fighter from Ms. Green home state. She joked that, “My mother really liked Ray Leonard probably more for his commercial appeal than his boxing.” She noted, “Boxing caught my attention because it’s such a daring, crazy, dangerous and beautiful sport.”
Ms. Green has her own publicity company plus she is a contributing writer for billycboxing.com and PrimeRound Magazine. She credits women pioneers Jackie Kallen, Rachel Charles and Terri Moss for opening the door for others like her to make it. She stated, “For the women that fight, it’s still a tough road. A lot of that struggle comes from the promoters not taking a chance on women’s boxing, and other problems can be attributed to the sport not having the depth of fighters the men’s divisions do, which makes good competition scarce and forces many times, bad matches.” Emily Klinefelter agreed when she told me, “Most boxing fans do not demand women’s matches on cards and promoters don’t care to put many women on their shows. There are definitely examples where female boxers do carry a significant fan following. Two that come to mind are Holly Holm and Mary McGee. I think the key to success for these women is that they have a promoter behind them that took a risk and made them regulars, and even headliners on their cards.” Amy Green added, “ For every sorry PPV undercard I’ve paid for to watch an overpriced men’s fight, there are very exciting female fighters working and waiting to take their place and give the audiences a lot more bang for their dollars.”
If Ms. Poe and Ms. Klinefelter love the combat sports as their sports, Ms.

Green loves other sports when not working the boxing scene. She told me, “NFL- Packers are my favorite team; and the NBA since we have the OKC Thunder an hour away and do watch a little baseball- big Yankees fan.”

Amy Green, like many of our generation, grew up watching boxing and still that is her combat sport whereas Trish Poe, similar in age to my children, grew up following Mixed Martial Art. Both sports produced the theater of the unexpected and there is nothing more exciting that the knock out, for the one brief moment that often moves in slow motion can end a fight. Drama follows the two women enter the ring or the Octagon and only one will leave victorious. That is the beauty of the two combat sports.