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ESPN Personality Stephen A. Smith Speaks Against Women Fighting in
MMA It’s well-known that ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith is not
the most well-versed analyst when it comes to mixed martial
arts.

Nonetheless, he is one of the biggest names in sports media, so
when he says something controversial about MMA, it tends to draw a
reaction. Such was the case for Smith during an appearance with
Larry Willmore on the
“Black on Air”
podcast, when he was asked about women taking
more prominent positions in sports management or coaching, such as
the Miami Marlins hiring Kim Ng as the first female general manager
in Major League Baseball or San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky
Hammon stepping up to head coach duties when Greg Popovich was
ejected from a recent game.

In those cases, Smith is on board with the progress.

“First of all, I love it,” he said. “I think there’s an awful lot
of women who are incredibly qualified to do the jobs they’re
doing.”

While Willmore’s question was only regarding women in positions of
leadership in sports, Smith quickly transitioned to give his
unsolicited take on women competing in MMA and combat sports.

“Where I jump off the bandwagon is where they try to engage
physically. For example, I don’t ever want to see a woman boxing a
man. I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to see a woman in the
UFC fighting a man—even though there are some women out there that
will kick the dude’s butt,” Smith said. “When I think about
pugilistic sports, I don’t like to see women involved in that at
all. I just don’t like it. I wouldn’t pass, I wouldn’t promote
legislating laws to prohibit them from doing so, but I don’t want
to see women punching each other in the face. I don’t want to see
women fighting in the Octagon and stuff like that. That’s just
me.

“I certainly, what I adamantly would be against is them fighting
men. I don’t think that’s cool. I’m not a proponent of that. Plus
you don’t ever want to give men a license to believe that it’s all
right to be physical with a woman, to be quite honest with you. You
don’t want to do that.”

Smith’s views on intergender competition in combat sports is
understandable, but his stance on women in MMA in general is sure
to generate some controversy. In 2020 alone, the UFC strawweight
title clash between Weili Zhang
and Joanna
Jedrzejczyk
wound up on top of many “Fight of the Year” lists,
including Sherdog.com’s. Outside of that, women such as Amanda
Nunes
and Valentina
Shevchenko
are regarded among the UFC’s top champions, and most
of the promotion’s events feature multiple female fights — plenty
of which are entertaining and high quality.

Smith previously drew the ire of the MMA community for his analysis
at UFC 246 last year, when he said he was “disgusted” with Donald
Cerrone
’s performance in a 40-second knockout loss to Conor
McGregor
. To Smith’s credit, he did go on to voice more support
for women in authority roles in sports on the podcast.

“And so, outside of that, when you think about them in executive
positions, first of all they’re smarter than [men] a lot of times,
they’re more composed than us a lot of times, they’re incredibly
knowledgeable about these respective sports. They’ve had to go
through trials and tribulations one couldn’t even imagine most of
the time. For them to get to that point, they deserve the
opportunity to showcase their skill sets. Just like we have women
in corporate America doing an incredible job leading companies,
being executives, pushing businesses forward, etc., etc. There’s no
reason on earth why they can’t do the same in the sports world. I
support it, I’m a fan of it, and I hope we see more of it.”


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