Invicta Fighting Championship and Why Women’s MMA is Ready for the Big Stage

Check out this great hype video for tomorrow night’s Invicta Fighting Championship event, which includes former Strikeforce Bantamweight champion Marloes Coenen. The event will be streaming online – FOR FREE – at Invicta’s website. For those interested in seeing the finished product of the shoot, Esther Lin has the full gallery posted on Invicta Fighting Championship’s Facebook page.

Free world class MMA. Can’t beat that.

Invicta is the first of its kind: an exclusively female card. The only other major exposure women’s MMA has received was through Strikeforce. Fears that the women’s divisions would be nuked when Zuffa (parent company of the UFC) acquired Strikeforce last year haven’t been realized, but you can still see how far the emphasis has fallen. It doesn’t help that its two major stars, Gina Carano and Cris “Cyborg” Santos, have departed the sport due to a sudden influx of movie roles and a sudden influx of failed drug tests, respectively.

Marloes Coenen and Romy Ruyssen face off in the main event of the first ever Invictus Fighting Championship card this Saturday night.

Dana White has gone on record saying that we won’t see women’s MMA on the UFC anytime soon. His reasoning is the same for why we’re only now seeing a Flyweight division: he doesn’t think the talent’s there just yet. Some say it’s sexist, but in some ways he’s correct. The sport’s still young and we’re only just now seeing guys come along that could be considered complete MMA fighters. And sadly, because we’ve really only seen women athletes gain prominence and acceptance within the past two decades, they have a lot of catching up to do.

Yet, for that very same reason, the improvement in fight quality and overall talent pool has improved exponentially over the last two years. It might be time to put them on the big stage now, especially since doing so will only increase the sport’s exposure and lead to an even bigger influx of competitive talent. In that sense, it’s a Catch-22: Dana won’t give women’s MMA the main stage because he doesn’t think they’re ready, but they need the exposure to get to that point.

Many will note that women’s sports as a whole don’t gain much traction Stateside, so it might be a moot point. While our inherent bias may be ingrained in us when it comes to the institution of team sports, it’s not nearly as prevalent in individual competition. To find examples you only need to look as far as the Olympics, golf, and especially tennis, where the women have dominated in terms of celebrity status and drawing power. I’m not naive enough to suggest this could happen to MMA, but the belief that the sport’s not ready to see women in the UFC is based on flawed assumptions and a misunderstanding of the difference between gender bias in team sports versus the prevalence and success of women in individual competition.

And, as stated earlier, this sport is still young, still growing, and still gaining traction in the mainstream. It comes with the same gender-related baggage as everything else in our society, but it has the distinct advantages of already being seen as a counter-culture movement and coming up in an age where our society is conscious of the plight of women athletes and accepting them more than ever before.

Until and unless the time comes where women get their shot, Invicta is the best they got. For now, it’s more than enough, and I for one will be watching.


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