Following the success of Melbourne’s record-breaking 56,214 attendance figure at Etihad Stadium in November last year, Brace, the premier MMA promotion group in Australia, has turned to Sydney for the next successful WMMA encounter.
What was momentous about Melbourne’s event was that for the first time in combat sport history women's championship bouts served as the main and co-main event on pay-per-view.
Both these events, Melbourne and now Sydney, has come after the cage ban was lifted in Australia, in all states apart from Western Australia. Thus, the mixed martial arts (MMA) landscape is going ahead in leaps and bounds here “down-under”.
The appetite for women’s sport has grown exponentially across the board, and whilst women’s mixed martial arts (WMMA) is still very much in its infancy, MMA promoters are sitting up and starting to take notice. None more so however than Brace CEO, Kya Pate.
“I simply love WMMA, it’s some of the most exciting match-ups we can make in our sport, period.
"I wanted the Sydney fight fan to experience WMMA and to show the sport is truly for everyone. I really want to highlight the skill level of Australian WMMA and what better way than featuring it on one of our high profile events?” pate said.
Brace, the premier MMA promotion in Australia, has always been a big proponent of WMMA having staged the only all-female WMMA event in Australia back in 2012 as well as regularly featuring women on the undercards of their events.
This commitment to showcasing WMMA talent has helped launch the careers of Alex Chambers and Bec Rawlings, who compete in UFC’s strawweight division (115lbs/52kg), as well as Natalie Gonzales Hills who competes under the One Championship banner, Asia’s most prominent MMA promotion, in the atomweight division (105lbs/48kg).
Whilst women have always been a feature of Brace events, over the last nine years, the event next month in Sydney will be the first time in the promotions history that two women have headlined a fight card.
The opportunity to feature WMMA at BRACE 38 is made even sweeter by the fact that the event will stream live across the globe thanks to a multi-year broadcasting contract deal between Brace and the UFC’s digital streaming platform, Fight Pass. The deal, which was inked last year, gives the two headliners, Jade Thomson and Hera Tamati, the unprecedented opportunity to dazzle fans both cage side and across the world.
The fighters: Jade Thompson & Hera Tamati
Jade Thomson is a three-time Australian Muay Thai champion and holds a record of 10-2 with five of her victories coming from knock out. She will be making her MMA debut against Minotaur flyweight champion (125lbs/56kgs) Hera Tamati who is a late replacement for Jessica Rose-Clarke following withdrawal from the competition due to an injury. Tamati brings to the table an impressive 5-2 professional record with all but one of her fights coming from finish via knockout or submission.
For Pate, the choice for Rose-Clarke’s replacement was an easy one.
“I needed to find another experienced fighter to face the highly credentialed Jade Thomson, the fact that Hera is the current flyweight champion for a Victorian based regional promotion (Minotaur) made it an easy choice. Hera ‘Tha Nytmare’ is a handful for anyone she faces. I expect to see fireworks with both of these girls coming to knock each other out!” Pate said.
Jade Thomson is elated to headline the first card of Brace’s 2016 schedule: “I have been given an amazing opportunity which I am very thankful for. For women to headline a major event is inspiring to other women.
“Having this event in Sydney with Brace's significant partnership with the UFC, stepping up to be on a world stage, I feel is like a spring board for all female athletes. I feel we are on the leading edge to support female fighters in Australia which is amazing and it will definitely have a ripple effect for all female athletes,” Thompson said.
Tamati shared her sentiments noting that it was “an awesome opportunity to be headlining such a prestigious promotion as Brace. Without local shows there would be nowhere for us to apply our skills so I think it’s brilliant that more and more opportunities are presenting themselves.”
For Thomson, her transition into MMA is driven by a desire to not only be the best martial artist she can be but also to inspire the next generation of women, whether they are athletes or not.
“I want to become the best martial artist I can be and I would like to inspire other women to follow their hearts – whatever your dream is, you can achieve it, you just need to believe in yourself,” Thomson said.
Whilst WMMA has been popularised of late by the likes of Ronda Rousey there is still no doubt that there is a long way to go before people see women fighting as more than just a “gimmick” to sell tickets. In a sport that is only just starting to receive legitimacy and acknowledgement from the wider spectrum of sporting audiences, moves like this one from Brace, help immensely in bridging the gap and providing a much needed platform for female athletes to showcase their talent.
Sydney MMA fight details
BRACE 38 takes place at the Big Top, Luna Park in Sydney on the 26th March 2016. The event can be streamed live via UFC Fight Pass.