It’s been almost six months since Ronda Rousey suffered her second crushing defeat in the UFC, and by all accounts we may have seen her fight for the last time in the Octagon.
Now the hunt is on to find the next female superstar in the sport, and in this article we’ll be looking at 10 women who are best placed to fill the void left by Rousey, from existing stars with the potential to take their fame to the next level, to up-and-coming prospects who have shown promising signs they could be the next big thing in WMMA.
To be clear, what we’re looking for here are not just talented fighters, but rather those who, like Rousey or indeed Gina Carano before her, also have that elusive ‘it factor’ that could enable them to gain mainstream recognition and become a major draw on pay-per-view.
Before we begin though, here’s a few honorable mentions to these talented ladies who just missed out on making the list but are worthy of recognition: Michelle Waterson, Ilima Macfarlane, Alexa Grasso, Julianna Pena, Holly Holm, Megan Anderson and Kayla Harrison.
10. Anastasia Yankova
In some circles, Anastasia Yankova is already being touted as the ‘Russian Ronda Rousey’.
The 26 year-old has gained considerable attention for her stunning looks and has over 180,000 followers on Instagram, but she has been training in martial arts since she was six and is a former Russian Muay Thai champion.
Her star potential was quickly recognized when she transitioned to MMA and with just two wins under her belt, Bellator jumped at the chance to sign Yankova in 2016.
She’s since improved to 5-0 and demonstrated that she’s more than just a striker by claiming three victories by way of submission.
There’s no doubt Yankova is a marketer’s dream and she’s already struck up sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike and Reebok, been featured in the Russian edition of Vogue, and speaks English fluently enough to have been interviewed by TMZ.
The caveat here is that though she remains unbeaten her performances in the cage so far suggest she’s still a work in progress, and so doubts remains as to how she’ll cope when the level of competition increases, with another rising Bellator star, Ilima Macfarlane being among those eager to derail her hype train.