People get outraged over the idea of women participating in high school wrestling too. But, they do okay, it’s not like it’s growing in popularity, or that girls don’t compete against boys in the same weight class, or that girls never grapple with boys when they’re in the same weight class.
The most thing you really need to understand about professional sports like boxing and MMA is this: it’s a form of entertainment and it exists to make money. It’s not altruistic and sports in the USA in general have a long history of sexism.
The same complaints you’re hearing about why women shouldn’t fight men in the UFC are just a different shade for why girls shouldn’t go out for their high school football team. Exactly like why women’s basketball is less serious than men’s basketball, why female wrestlers are often treated as sideshow acts even though they can accomplish great things if they keep working hard. Why some boys choose to forfeit their matches against girls based on personal beliefs that fighting a woman “just isn’t right”.
Professional combat sports are about entertaining their audience, the money they make off that audience is what keeps them in business. The fights they set up aren’t about creating “the fairest match possible”, it’s about match ups that will be entertaining to watch.
Though women’s divisions existed in other combat sports, the UFC only started signing female fighters in 2012. That’s two years ago. Though women’s boxing has a long history it was banned for most of the twentieth century. But, we still have examples of female boxers like Elizabeth Stokes who fought both men and women.
People use their own prejudices to determine what is and isn’t possible. While most of the MMA fighters I’ve met (limited pool) have been very nice guys, it’s a very masculine sport and most of the fans don’t like the idea of that masculinity being challenged. (More so than the fighters themselves.)
Right now, you can’t have a man fight a women without a whole bunch of people reading gender wars into it, and without potentially sacrificing both the professional male and the professional female fighter’s careers.
Man fights a woman and loses, he will end up regarded as incapable by the very people who are outraged at the very idea of men fighting women. It’s not that she’s a great fighter, it’s that he’s weak. And if he’s weak enough to lose to a girl then he obviously can’t go back into rotation and fight the other members of his division. He’s too weak, why would anyone want to watch that? (This is obviously not true, but we’re talking about stereotypes and perception. Not reality.)
Woman fights man and wins, she either got lucky or she’s a freak. Other women couldn’t do what she did and if she can beat this guy (because all men are obviously naturally superior to all women) then what’s the point of sending her back to the women’s division when it will be an obviously unfair match up? (Again, it’s not true. Perception, what people say, spin, not reality.)
Gender stereotypes like these hurt both men and women. Unfortunately, it’s not considered culturally appropriate for men to fight women. When your career relies on people showing up to see you fight, it’s not exactly rocket science to figure out why they don’t. Look at the controversy surrounding Fallon Fox, the first openly transgender athlete in MMA over whether or not she should be allowed to compete as a woman because of her bone structure. We’ve got a long way to go yet in a sport that is, overall, very conservative.
The problem here is that you’re so focused on what’s fair and unfair is that you’re forgetting that if a woman signs up to face a guy then she knows what she’s getting into. If a guy signs up to fight a woman, he probably knows what he’s getting into. They’re making a choice.
Can they win? Probably, we have enough historical examples. It’s not like women have never fought men before both in the ring and in real life. The question you’re not asking is: does it matter if they lose? The answer is no. No, it doesn’t matter if they lose. No single woman and no single man are the representatives of their entire gender. Some female fighters are exceptional, some are mediocre. Some male fighters are exceptional, some are mediocre. If a mediocre female fighter takes on an exceptional male fighter and loses, then she’s not letting her gender down. Anyone who fist pumps over a girl’s loss (and there are plenty of people out there who do) crying “I knew she couldn’t do it!” should probably re-evaluate their priorities and ask themselves why a girl losing matters so much to them.
I hope that answers your question.