There was a time that MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) used to be focused only with male participants. Either women wanted nothing to do with the sport or promoters felt people would not want to pay to see women competing. Times have changed and the popularity of women’s mixed martial arts has been climbing steadily over the past several years.
While its popularity may not be in question, how the fighters are marketing themselves does raise some eye brows. While some fighters would market their abilities in the ring, MMA star Felice Herrig seems to have no problem with flaunting her ability, her body in this case, to get ahead in the MMA. Herrig’s attitude may help her to move up in the sport but does it ultimately help or hurt how women are viewed upon in female sports?
When competing in a sport, the goal is to win. The more wins a person or team accumulates, the higher in status you climb until reaching the ultimate goal; being number one. However, people like Felice feel that you also need to be marketable in order to be successful.
She said that “In female sports especially it’s about how marketable you are and I’m not going to hide who I am.” For her, this means knowing she has more than an attractive body and flaunting it to help her become more successful in the MMA. Yet, the 28 year-old knows that this approach could cause more harm than good.
Olympic star Lolo Jones learned this the hard way as the female athlete fell victim to a backlash from her teammates after her attempt to use sex appeal in order to increase her popularity. During a recent appearance on the Jeff Probst Show, Herrig said, “Lolo Jones, I feel bad for her. My heart goes out to her a little bit because her teammates were so mean to her because she was pretty. It’s like you can’t tell what the media is going to grab onto.”
Herrig went on to explain that when she was a young girl, she read that sports athlete Anna Kournikova made more money than top-ranked female tennis players during that time period. For her, something clicked inside as to why she was able to make more money than she should have.
She noted that, “I don’t do it just because I’m sexing it up. That’s not my main goal. I’m a woman. I love being a woman. I love putting on pretty dresses and going out. But actually when I was in sixth-grade, I remember I was reading an article in the newspaper and it was about two female tennis stars.”
The article in question featured one of the top ranked girls and the other was Kournikova, a mid-level contender who just happened to be attractive. Herrig said, “In female sports, it’s about how marketable you are. I’m not going to hide who I am. Society is a certain way. If you know it, you’d be dumb not to go with it, ride it a little bit. Ride the wave.”
However, other female fighters might disagree with this approach and rather market themselves through the use of their physical abilities. Ronda Rousey was recently crowned the first woman champion in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). She will soon be defending her title and 559 Fights promoter Jeremy Luchau realizes that fans desire more to women fighters.
Luchau said, “The fans want to see women’s bouts. The women’s bouts are what fans are asking about.” He plans on filling this need on Saturday at the Old Creek Mill in Bakersfield as 559 Fights will feature two women’s bouts.
Luchau explains that “I am very excited about the four girls on this show. The gyms they’re coming out of, they’re gyms and coaches that work hard and train hard. Their fighters always put on great performances. They are coming from good, stable camps, which is great. All the girls have been very good about getting their medicals done, turning things in on time and checking in. When fighters do that, you can tell they are hungry and ready to fight.”
In listening to Luchau, the women fighters are not focused on using sex appeal to gain popularity or move up in MMA but relying on their fighting abilities and athleticism for success. One thing he says is that he is never concerned about the effort the women put into their fights as they always put on great shows.
Luchau says, “ They’ve been getting their butts kicked in the gym because they have to train with males. They get beat up by the men, who don’t take it easy on them, every day. When they get to go out and fight someone at their level, they’re hungry and want to put on a good performance. They have a lot of drive and determination. They want to be pioneers of the sport and follow that Ronda Rousey-type lead. Fans like that. They want to see people who try and finish fights and girls always do that. You rarely see a boring girl fight at any level.”
When it comes for a female athlete to become successful in today’s world, there appears to not be one train of thinking. Though it seems important how a person is marketable, how you do that does differ. Felice Herrig feels that if you are attractive enough to do so do not hide it but flaunt it if you’re able to do so.
Women like Ronda Rousey, on the other hand, seem to market themselves through their physical abilities and skill in order to be successful in the MMA. There are obviously different avenues a person can take to become marketable; however, can one approach actually help or hurt the MMA?