On the surface, the sport of mixed martial arts would appear to be well on it’s way to becoming a mainstream sport in the UK.
A number of UFC events each year take place in the UK, and fighters like Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy and Paul Daley are now familiar names to anyone who watches the sport.
ESPN UK broadcasts the UFC’s events live, terrestrial channel FIVE shows both highlights of key events along with ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality series, slowly but surely some of the major newspapers are also beginning to cover the sport on a regular basis.
Despite this there is still a struggle to convince the average man and woman on the street that mixed martial arts is a legitimate sport, and not just two people with little skill brawling in a cage.
One woman who has been doing much as much as anybody in the sport to change this perception has been Rosi Sexton. The diminutive British MMA fighter has fought professionally since 2002 and currently holds a record of 10-1. Along the way she has fought internationally for organizations such as Bellator, BodogFight (where she became the 125lb Champion), EliteXC, and Cagewarriors (where she was the Womans Champion).
What makes her a perfect spokeswoman for the sport in the UK is that she smashes many of the ill-founded ideas that those unfamiliar with MMA often have. Beyond just being a mother of one in a sport that is often considered to be purely for men, she also holds a first class degree in mathematics from Cambridge University and a PhD in Theoretical Computer Science from Manchester University.
In the past month in particular Rosi has been highlighting the sport in a positive way in a number of high profile interviews and features. She was recently featured in the Daily Mail (one of the UK’s leading newspapers with a weekly readership of close to two million) in an article that attempted to tackle some of the stereotypes that still plague the sport.
Soon after she appeared as a guest on GMTV – which is as mainstream as breakfast TV gets on these shores. Notably the theme once again was breaking down the negative image that MMA often still has here.
Another interview with a leading newspaper, this time the low-brow tabloid, The Daily Star followed. Somewhat surprisingly the paper, which is best known for sensationalist headlines and scantily clad celebrities, gave her an opportunity to voice her opinions without either herself or the sport being portrayed in a negative light.
Meanwhile on the horizon is a documentary featuring Rosi and fellow UK fighter Lisa Higo on BBC4’s flagship documentary series, Storyville.
Ironically while she has the kind of media exposure that many British fighters can only dream about, the one thing the submission specialist still struggles with is finding suitable events and opponents to display her skills. On her own blog for instance she reveals that she hasn’t fought in the UK since 2005. In the past two years she has fought only twice, winning on both occasions.
There are some interesting options in the pipeline however, most notably a rumored four woman bantemweight tournament hosted by Bellator, who recently secured a major new television deal in the United States.
The hope however is that with positive role models like Rosi, and others such as the only fighter to beat her so far in her career – Gina Carano, more woman will be drawn into the sport in the coming years.
In the mean time Rosi Sexton will continue to fly the flag, not just for womans MMA, but for mixed martial arts as a whole in the UK.
Article By RossC