A Brazilian fighter captured a mixed-martial arts (MMA) championship carrying a baby. It’s later than you think.
Kinberly Novaes defeated Renata Baldwin on May 17 in a three-round decision under the Noxii Combat (which apparently does not mean “noxious combat” in English) banner. The bout fought as a handicap match of sorts, as Novaes entered the cage with another human being on her side. She discovered her pregnancy nearly three months after her fight while trying to figure out why she gained weight in a regimen to drop weight to compete again at 115 pounds against American Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger.
“We did a morphology ultrasound last week and the doctor said I’m 24 weeks pregnant, almost six months, and my baby is healthy and strong,” the pregnant pugilist explained to MMAFighting.com’s Guilherme Cruz. “I was worried because I trained hard, fought, cut weight. I suffered a lot to make weight for my last fight, couldn’t dehydrate properly, and I was already training to fight again next week, but the doctor said everything is fine.”
Do we give the 8-2 fighter kudos or contempt for winning while pregnant?
The amazing/horrifying event gives women’s MMA, gaining converts through the evangelistic, one-woman crusade of Ronda Rousey, an ugly black eye. Earlier this month, 900,000 people—more than bought any MMA card since UFC 168—subscribed to UFC 190, which witnessed Rousey, fighting in Brazil like Novaes, dispose local Bethe Correia in 34 seconds. When Breitbart Sports queried Rousey about the reluctance of some male fans to embrace women’s mixed-martial arts earlier this year, the UFC 135-pound champion snapped back: “You are what we need to change about this culture.”
But the squeamishness exhibited by old-school MMA fans toward women’s MMA appears less cultural than biological. While sexists may knock women’s MMA as they knock women’s tennis, basketball, and much else, the men who don’t like watching women endure kicks and punches, let alone pregnant women endure kicks and punches, don’t exactly come across as barbarians. In an earlier version of our world, the name for a guy who disliked the sight of women getting hit was “gentleman,” not “chauvinist.”
Neither side of the question really thinks it through. A programmed, rote response characterizes the proponents of women’s MMA who cry “sexist,” “bigot,” and the like.to shut down discussion. The detractors of women’s MMA similarly respond from instinct rather than thought. They know they don’t like women fighting but they can’t really say why they don’t like women fighting. Everyone talking regards theirs as the words of progress and the words of their debating partners as the dressed-up language of the primitive. Like so many male observations about females, men respond to women fighting from a place other than the brain.
Apart from the inarticulateness of the latter position and the mute button depressed by the name callers, the conversation occurs in print more than in-person because who, really, wants to talk about the possibility of an abortion televised before a live audience? It’s a “we can’t talk about it” talking point. Even if the antis could talk the pros wouldn’t allow them to. As with fighting, this silent conversation about the sport strikes as more visceral than intellectual. Fans feel passionately about it. They don’t think intelligently about it. This especially goes for the fans covering the sport.
Judging by the monster pay-per-view numbers Rousey has posted since Breitbart Sports talked to her, the question initially posed appears largely moot. By playing a comic-book character in real life as she soon does in the movies, Rousey turned a fringe, uncouth sport into a mainstream moneymaker in less than five years. She puts the “art” in mixed-martial arts through graceful judo throws and beautiful jiu-jitsu submissions. But, as her knockout earlier this month demonstrates, she can fight brutally as well as beautifully.
Large numbers of men pay large amounts of money to watch women punch each other in the face (if you don’t like this you’re the sexist). In Brazil, a smaller number of men paid a smaller amount of money to unwittingly watch a pregnant woman get kicked and punched and choked and tackled and much else.
But hey, it’s her body, her choice. Right? Right?
Novaes says she won’t fight again until next year. Her unborn child, presumably not thrilled with cutting weight or dodging blows, appreciates it.