Mixed martial arts (MMA) has traditionally been a very male preserve. But times might be changing. In an effort to offset softening TV viewer numbers and to improve the sport’s tarnished image, MMA executives are more consciously targeting a female demographic. By actively marketing female fights, the sport is hoping to attract more women as fans, while also providing a new dynamic for the mainstay male fan base.
But in the wake of recent brutal domestic violence incidents by MMA fighters, changing the way people look at the sport may take some time. One incident in 2013 saw fighter Josh Grispi arrested after allegedly setting his pit bull loose on his wife; another saw a fighter known as War Machine be accused of inflicting on his ex-girlfriend a broken nose, a ruptured liver and 18 broken bones around her eyes.
So from the sport’s perspectives, anything that provides a revamped dimension to MMA is a good thing. And finding new stars in the sport is a start. One of the biggest female stars is Ronda Rousey, once an Olympic judo medalist but now a success under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) franchise. Fox Sports has also started a new season of the reality TV series The Ultimate Fighter – the difference this time round is that the competition is made up completely of 16 female fighters. Fox is promoting the show as: “Easy on the eyes and hard on the face.” These women will compete to win a new female-only division in the UFC. At the same time, rival league Bellator MMA also intends to hold its first fight between women in October.
All these efforts are focused on redressing an imbalance in the sport’s following. Currently only 27 percent of UFC fans are female (compared with 41 percent for baseball and 40% for NFL). Time will tell whether executives in the sport manage to orchestrate a permanent shift in who watches and competes in MMA.
I'm a finance man by background, but by nature and interest I'm also a trained life coach, traveler and observer of life. I've lived in a few countries, gone through a few ups and downs, but I'm still standing. I've blogged on and off for the last five years.