Joanne Calderwood’s Championship Risk
By James Lee
As Joanne Calderwood had seemingly secured her opportunity to become merely the fourth Brit in history to contend for a UFC title, that standing is now under stress as she has taken a short-notice fight against Jennifer Maia this weekend.
It was announced that Calderwood was scheduled to fight the dominant champion, Valentina Shevchenko, at UFC 251 in the UFC’s opening of their Fight Island venture. However, Shevchenko was forced to withdraw from the contest due to injury, leaving the date of the tie unknown and Calderwood unwilling to wait.
On the face of it, it seems this weekend’s risk is not worth the reward. With a title chance secure, fighting again severely risks her chance to become champion. Importantly, Jennifer Maia presents a difficult challenge on short notice and one that offers little reward.
Although tipped as one of flyweight’s most impressive, the Brazilian is significantly away from mainstream attention and holds little standing at 125 lbs. A loss for Calderwood is a definite possibility and one she may regret further down the line if she cannot regain a title opportunity.
However, her taking the chance is perhaps the reason she will continue to be recognised amongst the UFC masses and be supported. If there is something the fanbase likes, it is activity and risk-taking. The Scottish fighter is certainly ticking those boxes in her contest in Las Vegas.
If Calderwood is successful nonetheless, her status will significantly enhance. Having a contender like Calderwood from the UK could also be instrumental in the continuance of building the European market. The UFC is always looking for talent from the UK and Calderwood could be a figurehead alongside Darren Till and Leon Edwards.
Not only that, but Calderwood is also one of a few pushing the flyweight division into the mainstream. Compared to the fights created when the division first opened three years ago, its status has dramatically increased, and Calderwood is a significant part of that, considering she has been a mainstay since its opening.
Whether Calderwood’s risk is worthwhile may be irrelevant. Her taking the fight will garner admiration from both the UFC and the fighting community, setting her up for an abundance of possibilities in the future. Regardless of whether she is triumphant on Saturday, her stock will rise whatever and her future in the sport’s premier division is strong.