By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA
It took the UFC twenty years to allow women into the Octagon. Legends of the Cage (LOTC) was founded earlier this year by Brian Moore and co-founded by Gary Goodridge, and they are quick to recognize the vital role in women’s MMA (WMMA). Just as the men, WMMA participants’ reasons to fight mirror the men: competition, passion, challenge. By green-lighting WMMA, the UFC somehow legitimized these females, though LOTC noted the importance of WMMA, stretches into pockets and alcoves of the Earth that extend far beyond WMMA’s inception into the UFC.
LOTC is an organization of fighters: former fighters, retired or injured. They are all about taking care of their own. There are a lot of competitors from the past who need help, and there are a lot of people out there who want to help. LOTC’s objective is to bring everyone together.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and, with women’s induction into the UFC or promotions like Invicta Fighting Championships (IFC), WMMA is more and more regularly finding its way into the mainstream, creating household names out of WMMA champions, like Ronda Rousey. LOTC is overjoyed to welcome three women under their umbrella: Shannon Knapp, Julie Kedzie, and Tara Larosa. These three women have, in legendary fashion, restructured the perceptions of WMMA, and LOTC will be in attendance for IFC 13, headlined by Cris Cyborg (13-1-0 1NC) vs. Faith Van Duin (5-1-0)), to formally introduce these women into the fold of LOTC’s agenda with their Legends of the Cage Excellence In MMA Award.
Women receiving LOTC’s award may be a first, but LOTC had the opportunity to present the LOTC Excellence In MMA Award to Pat Miletich and Pat “The Headhunter” Smith at Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) 26. In recognizing these two storied fighters at RFA 26, Moore stated,
“It was an honor to present Pat Miletich and Pat Smith the Legends of the Cage Excellence In MMA Award for their great accomplishments in making MMA the most exciting realm of competition in the world of sports today!”
A small token of LOTC’s appreciation for the illustrious careers of these MMA legends who left their hearts and souls in the cage between bells.
At IFC 13, LOTC has ensured that the famed women of MMA won’t be last to the party; instead they’re next to be chronicled in LOTC’s journey. Moore expressed how wonderful it will be for LOTC to work side-by-side with Knapp, Kedzie, and Larosa,
“Their hard work and dedication to the warriors of women’s mixed martial arts is appreciated by the fans, as well as the athletes who can now forge a path down a road more easily traveled.”
Whether it’s men or women battling on the apron, a fight is a fight. Believe it or not, the ladies who step in the cage can appear more primal and vicious than the men, quick to incite a fan’s favoritism. Paul Varelans, a participant at UFC 6 and an LOTC representative, discussed on The Sports Cage’s weekly segment dedicated to the LOTC that he was a huge fan of WMMA because of their carnal nature. He said,
“They are so intense. They’ve proven that a female doesn’t have to have to be any less than a male in a sport. I also think they make it a little more personal, which I think it was more like in the old days.”
For all the competitors who cause fans to rise to their feet in celebration, the feat of LOTC is to rally all those encompassed within the MMA community; the next leg of the tour being the commencement of Knapp, Kedzie, and Larosa at IFC 13-certifying their work to be phenomenal!
President of the IFC, Knapp erected the IFC into the world’s largest organization for WMMA. In a report by Combat Press, Knapp was quoted on Rear Naked Choke Radio as to where her vision of growing WMMA may stem from,
“Where I come from, the women were way more rowdy than the men in the family. I come from a long line of very strong women.”
Knee-deep in the status quo of her organization, Knapp doesn’t have the ability of Art Davie, unless she possesses a time machine, to look back on 20 years of Invicta’s existence, as it was founded in 2012.
Art Davie, the brainchild of the UFC, in his tell-all autobiography, written with Sean Wheelock, Is This Legal? described the ability to see firsthand how far the UFC has progressed from a mere inkling in his thoughts:
“…as you get older and have the ability to look back at the road traveled, you can see where the road forked, and get a very good indication of who and what helped make those changes possible.” (p. 12)
With MMA’s continued exponential growth, we will continue to bear witness to monumental milestones in WMMA with Knapp, likely, at its nucleus.
The last time an IFC and UFC event occurred on the same weekend reinforced, with headline after headline, the fact that WMMA has achieved significant breakthroughs: IFC 11, headlined by Cris Cyborg vs. Charmaine Tweet for the featherweight championship, and UFC 184, which posterized females as headliners, Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano, and as the co-main event, Raquel Pennington vs. Holly Holm. In conjunction to the fights, rumors swelled in relation to a possible super-fight between UFC’s Rousey and IFC’s Cyborg, who are heralded as WMMA’s most dominant athletes. Knapp interviewed with MMA Fighting at the time of all the media’s buzz about women being spotlighted in a lead role of MMA’s news and events. Knapp stated,
“I look at it as a landmark weekend for the women. Women have certainly carved out their spot in the sport and I think that’s an amazing thing for the female athlete.”
It turned out that Knapp was correct about the weekend being amazing because the ladies delivered: Cyborg a first round TKO, and Rousey with a fourteen-second submission. A partnership with LOTC, on a weekend when MMA’s timeline will be dotted with more memories, gels perfectly because, unlike others, LOTC thrives on forging ahead in search of new connections but never ceasing to remind us how we arrived at our destination.
Julie Kedzie is the IFC’s matchmaker and color commentator during events, except Kedzie’s most current listing on her resume is not the reason LOTC finds her to be an ideal addition to the team. In WMMA, Kedzie showcased a woman’s ability to endure in MMA, not just linger.
Kedzie debuted as a professional in 2004 with an organization known as HookNShoot, and she steamrolled ahead, making a splash in the world of WMMA. As a mixed martial artist, Kedzie fought all over the world in a number of organizations, spreading the good word that women enter the cage to compete and entertain. According to legends like Varelans, the women are nothing short on the entertainment front.
While competing in a fighting organization known as EliteXC, Kedzie would take on Gina Carano in the first ever televised WMMA fight. Kedzie lost this bout, but the eyeballs she attracted acted as a springboard to launch WMMA to a new frontier.
In 2013, Kedzie decided it was best for her fighting career to retire from active duty. Kedzie shared her decision to retire with MMA Junkie,
“I started because I loved it, and I ended loving it,” Kedzie said. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to retire now, while I still love it, before it became a chore.”
Kedzie’s role at IFC allows her to live out her passion on a daily basis. Coupling with LOTC, Kedzie can focus on the athletes of now as those of yesteryear, and all will be supported to LOTC’s maximum efforts.
An active legend, Tara Larosa (22-5-0) is one of the world’s top flyweights. She began her career in 2003 after being trained by UFC 1’s tournament winner: Royce Gracie.
Similar to Kedzie’s beginnings, Larosa first competed at HookNShoot. She racked-up a fifteen-fight win-streak and collected bantamweight belts in organizations like Ultimate Cage Warriors and Bodog Fight. Comparable to her original trainer, weight was only a number, and she wanted to fight.
Larosa possibly fought outside her desired division of flyweight because she harbored the same feelings outlined by Sam Sheridan in his autobiography A Fighter’s Heart,
“There is a battle rage that is so enthralling; the berserker emotion that doesn’t discern friend from foe but simply rejoices in blood. This was the feeling I was after. My adrenal glands were triggered and I was fully engaged in the moment: Someone was trying to kill me. The door opened on a new world.” (p. 7)
Desperately wanting to show the world her skillset in the UFC, as all mixed martial artists aspire to do, she, again, fought above her natural weight division as a bantamweight and tried out for the UFC’s reality show: The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): Season 18. Eliminated and unable to enter the TUF house and tournament, it may be safe to assume that this isn’t the last time the UFC will hear from Larosa.
Larosa, a gritty veteran, will not stop reminding fans of how tough women are by adding to her ring-time statistics, but she is also eager to announce to the world that the cage is a place for everyone to become a legend. By teaming up with LOTC, Larosa’s announcement will be loud and clear.
It’s important to take a step back from the action and offer our thanks to those who gave so much. LOTC is the platform to stage how thankful we truly are. Don’t miss IFC 13; titles are on the line, and history is being made inside and outside of the cage.
For more information about LOTC or to donate, go to:
Legends of the Cage