Tonight will see the first event of new all-female, Kansas-based MMA promotion Invicta Fighting Championship. Featuring a strong mix of prospects (like US Olympic wrestler Randi Miller) and some big name fighters (like Marloes Coenen), Invicta FC One looks like a great move in the right direction for women’s mixed martial arts.
The most important women’s MMA bout in recent time was the Strikeforce bantamweight title fight between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. While it was great for female fighting to have such a high profile fight, the fight also highlighted the lack of direction WMMA currently suffers from.
Marketing Female Fighters on Looks
The Rousey vs Tate fight was promoted as a fight between two women who were beautiful, but could fight nevertheless. Take a look at this promo for the fight, which features around 6 seconds of fighting and 30 seconds of women walking around looking beautiful.
Aside from being patronising to fans (male and female alike), marketing a fight on looks is a very short term way of gaining new fans. People will not become long term fans of the female MMA divisions if they are only sold fights based on how the competitors look. In the end, in sport, we want to see the best fight the best. Top female fighters need the same treatment top male fighters get, they need promotion that highlights their skill set. They are fighters and they need to be marketed on their abilities to fight.
Invicta FC is very much in its infancy, but they already seem keen to take this more sensible approach to promotion. Promoter Shannon Knapp has made it clear she wants Invicta to play a big part in making women’s MMA successful with sustained, competitive divisions. Which brings me to my next point:
Scattered Divisions and Catchweights
The best female fighters in the world are spread all over the world, fighting for a plethora of fight promotions, from Cage Warriors in Europe, Jewels in Japan to Bellator and Strikeforce in the US. Strikeforce has the reputation of being the premier organisation for women’s MMA, because it is the biggest organisation that women fight in and because they have had the best bantamweight and featherweight fighters signed to their roster. However, Strikeforce has not been willing to take a serious and committed approach to female fighting, with champions and contenders alike sitting on the side lines for large periods of time waiting for opponents to be lined up.
The problem is that most organisations have not shown their commitment by signing a full roster of women in each weight division, but rather put fights on when they feel the fights are big enough. This means that promotions are perpetually waiting for prospects to create themselves, like Sara McMann and Ronda Rousey have, rather than building prospects up.
Invicta FC is trying to have a long term approach to female fighting. They are looking to align the best women they can in each weight class and truly set up divisions that help determine who is the best. That leads to more marketability but more importantly, it is what is needed from a sporting perspective.
Knapp has also complained that too many female fights are fought at catchweights, which takes away divisional relevance from fights and leads to some pretty mismatched opponents. This in turn leads to female fighters having misleading records because they have been forced to fight much bigger girls in order to stay busy. Again, Invicta will look to keep those fights out of their promotion.
Invicta is a very positive step for the future of WMMA. Led by Shannon Knapp, who has worked with Strikeforce and the UFC, Invicta FC should have a high level of professionalism and the knowledge of how to make a promotion successful. In the future I would like to see female fighting treating equally with male fighting and for the best female fights to feature next to the best male fights. Invicta is making the first moves towards giving WMMA that kind of credibility.
Invicta FC One will be streamed live and free tonight at Invicta FC website.