The UFC has a women problem. While Conor McGregor is the undisputed face of Mixed Martial Arts right now – even as he pursues boxing – the women’s divisions lost their main draw when Ronda Rousey was KOed in back-to-back bouts. Paige VanZant tried to fill the void and lost twice. Amanda Nunes is thrilling but doesn’t yet have the English skills to be a marketable star. There’s a ton of talent in female MMA, but no crossover mainstream star to replace Rousey just yet.
Could Heather Hardy be that star?
Hardy is an undefeated boxer with 20 wins and the WBC International Female Super Bantamweight title to her name. She also just happened to win her MMA debut with a third-round knockout at Bellator 180.
At the post-fight press conference, Hardy said: “I think I just fell in love. I just worked so hard and now I can say I did it too. A lot of people said I couldn’t do it or I wouldn’t do it. And I did.”
Why the sudden change for Hardy when things are going so well in boxing? Well, after she saw the success former boxer Holly Holms was having in the UFC, she decided to broaden her horizons.
“I knew that MMA was so much more evolved than boxing. I knew that female boxers are so grossly underpaid. I hate to say I’m gonna do MMA for the money, but it is certainly an incentive,” Hardy said.
“The sport itself is much more evolved. Not even just more than boxing but more than any sport where females are involved. MMA is one of the few sports where women are seen as athletes.”
“In boxing, we’re dealing with the same guys that we’re signing contracts when Laila Ali and Christy Martin were fighting. ..These are just a bunch of guys who are really far behind in the times and stuck in their ways,” she said. “Women in the sport are suffering. I just had to change. Boxing is not evolving.”
She expanded on these thoughts in an interview with MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani…
Fingers crossed that Hardy is the breakout female MMA star we’ve been waiting for.