LAS VEGAS >> The UFC is creating a new division for 125-pound women, and its first champion will be crowned during the upcoming season of the promotion’s long-running reality television show.
The UFC announced plans for a women’s flyweight division today.
Flyweight will be the fourth weight class for women in the UFC, which only began promoting women’s fights in early 2013. The popularity of women’s mixed martial arts grew swiftly with the rise of former 135-pound bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, prompting the UFC to expand its roster dramatically.
The first 125-pound champion will emerge from the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which will begin filming in July. The UFC is inviting professionals from around the world to compete alongside anyone on its current roster who can make the weight.
The UFC is holding open tryouts for the reality show May 23 in Las Vegas.
The UFC added a 115-pound strawweight division in 2014 and a 145-pound bantamweight division this year. The promotion also crowned its first strawweight champion during a season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
UFC President Dana White had downplayed the possibility of adding a 125-pound division in recent months, suggesting the promotion wasn’t ready to add another group of fighters to its large roster.
But numerous fighters already under UFC contract, including high-profile strawweight Paige VanZant, have requested the addition in recent years, hoping to compete closer to their natural weight instead of fighting at 135 or 115 pounds.
The UFC already staged its first stand-alone flyweight fight last June, when Joanne Calderwood beat Valerie Letourneau by third-round stoppage.
The UFC has eight men’s weight classes.
The Invicta Fighting Championships, an all-women’s promotional company with ties to the UFC, has five women’s weight classes, including a 105-pound atomweight division.