Women's MMA Doesn't Need Your Approval

by Kevin Marshall   November 05, 2012 at 12:00PM  |  Views: 3,600


(Kevin Marshall's opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Spike.)

Until recently, it was the official position of the largest MMA promotion in the world that women's MMA wasn't ready for the main stage. Of course, seemingly everybody else disagreed, including other promotions under the same umbrella (Strikeforce) and Bellator, which debuts in January on Spike. The argument presented by the UFC was that there weren't any divisions in Women's MMA with enough competition to warrant putting on their cards.

There are words I could use to describe that argument, many of which Dana White has used himself. For the sake of maintaining some semblance of decorum, I'll simply call it hogwash.

Perhaps the best example you can provide to counter this argument is Invicta FC, an all-women's MMA promotion that launched this year. Anyone who has watched the events they've put on – which stream live and for free on their website at InvictaFC.com - will tell you that these women are world class fighters. The fight cards have been, top to bottom, among the most entertaining fight events of the last calendar year. It's not like watching untrained women doing "foxy boxing" at a bar. The women that appear on Invicta and Bellator cards are highly skilled, professionally trained martial artists, and as many that have been featured on these cards there are even more that are banging down the doors of these promotions to get a spot on their fight cards.

But how can that be? The mainstream narrative is, after all, that not enough women fight to make a single weight division, let alone an entire promotion.

The problem is that it's being dictated by people who don't follow or don't want to follow the progress of women's MMA. Much of that is because as a country, we still have a less than favorable view of women's sports, both in terms of competitiveness and their ability to draw ratings and money.

There are two problems with this viewpoint. One is that it presupposes that there is an insurmountable gender gap in terms of participation in MMA or martial arts as a whole. While you may go to some gyms where this is the case, there are some very notable exceptions and it is not nearly to the degree that you'll see in most team sports.

The other reason why that argument doesn't hold water: MMA is not a team sport. By that I don't mean that other people don't contribute to a fighter's success, since obviously there are gyms and management teams that produce better fighters. However, in terms of marketing, you're focusing on a single person rather than a collection of them. Because pay-per-view buys and ticket sales are driven by personality as much as good promotion, women could (and I think will) become box office draws in MMA as long as they're given the opportunity. We almost saw it in boxing years ago. Unfortunately, boxing is a sport mired in some very dated mentalities. MMA doesn't have quite as much baggage, but to an extent still carries some of it.

As for the idea that there aren't enough good women fighters to be competitive, I would argue by that logic then that there should really only be a small handful of weight divisions for males as well. After all, the UFC created a flyweight division that seems to consist almost solely of featherweights and bantamweights making the cut to 125 pounds. At the other end of the spectrum, as much as we like seeing large dudes pummel each other, probably the weakest weight division in all of combat sports in terms of depth parity is heavyweight. And as shallow as the talent pool is in MMA, it has nothing on American boxing, which doesn't seem able to produce the caliber of fighter it once did. That's mostly because for larger athletes, all the money and focus is in football and basketball.

Also, let's not forget that Welterweight and Middleweight have been dominated by champions who seem to be at least two rungs above everybody else in their weight class. If we are going to use dominant fighter like Cris Cyborg or Ronda Rousey as an argument for the lack of depth in women's MMA, then we might as well scrap 170 and 185 on the men's side as well.

The point is, women are ready for the spotlight and they deserve it. What's astounding about what we're seeing so far isn't the vast array of talent being uncovered, but that they're doing it in the first place. Men going into fighting as a career already are taking a gamble in a sport that's already tailored for them. These women are fighting on the off chance that at some point in the future they might have something resembling a chance to play at the table.

Women's MMA is already competitive and doesn't need a stamp of approval from anyone. It just needs their acceptance.


Image Credit: Bellator MMA

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