Thursday, March 6, 2014

Water Cooler Talk: It's a Women's World in the UFC

Three years ago Dana White was asked about if women will ever be in the UFC.  His respond to this question was quick and one word, NEVER.  Boy has things changed.  Since then women fighters have helped make the sport of UFC even better.  They have put on great fights while also headlining cards and being on the Ultimate Fighter.  Women fighters have proved that fans want to watch their fights equally or more than the men’s fights. 

It did not take long for White to change his opinion.  In October 2012 during an interview with Sports Illustrated, White said they were absolutely going to add a women’s division.  After this announcement, no one was sure how long it would take for the first fight to happen.  It ended up taking less than four months.  

The first fight happened on February 23rd, 2013.  The fight was between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche.  They were the headliner for UFC 157 in Anaheim.  Rousey submitted Carmouche via armbar in the first round to become the first ever women’s bantamweight title holder.  

Rousey is the reason that the women’s division was added to the UFC.  She helped to make White a believer in women’s MMA.  The UFC has always relied on superstars to help sell their brand.  These superstars include Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, and Chuck Lidell to name a few.  Rousey fits right in with this group.

Rousey was dominating her opponents before her UFC contract.  She had won every fight by armbar in the first round with all but one of those fights lasting less than a minute.  Rousey has continued to dominate in the UFC with two submission victories and TKO in 66 seconds, the fastest knockout in women’s MMA history.  She continues to add to her impressive resume that also includes a bronze medal in judo at the Olympics in 2008 making her the first women ever to medal in judo.  

The UFC did not think that people would watch women’s fights but that has not been the case.  The first women’s fight had 450,000 PPV purchases.  This fight was in the top ten for most purchased UFC fights since 2012.  Rousey’s second fight had the fourth highest PPV buys ever with 1,025,000.  This fight was not headlined by a women’s fight but obviously still watched by a lot of people.  Her most recent fight the PPV numbers have not been released but the gate revenue came in at over $1.5 million.  

Even Ultimate Fighter 18, which featured two female coaches and both male and female fighters, was successful for the women.  The show started out poorly with the first episode being the least viewed Ultimate Fighter season opener ever.  After this week, every week that the main event was between females was viewed by at least 50,000 more people than the weeks headlined by men.  

The finale of the Ultimate Fighter was viewed by over 1.2 million people.  This was a 56% increase from the previous UFC event on Fox Sports 1.  The finale was also the sixth highest viewed program in Fox Sports 1’s short history.  It was the second most viewed UFC event on Fox Sports 1 behind Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Chael Sonnen.  The Rua vs. Sonnen event was the first ever event on Fox Sports 1.

The sky is the limit for women’s UFC potential.  White is already talking about adding another weight class at 115 pounds.  The Ultimate Fighter 20 will feature an all women cast.  UFC even had their first cut women make her debut at UFC 170.  I believe that the continued success of women’s fighters will lead to more and more opportunities.  I am sure White is happy that he decided to change his mind on female fighters.   

Greg Monforte is a Drexel University Sport Management pre-junior from South Jersey.  Currently he works at Not Just Pizza in Sicklerville, NJ and Daddis Fight Camps in Philadelphia where he has social media and marketing responsibilities.  Greg is also the SMTSU Director of Marketing & Outreach.  Follow Greg on Twitter @Greg_Monforte.

Connect with Greg Monforte on LinkedIn.

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