This past Saturday, Invicta FC held the largest all-women professional MMA card in US history to debut the promotion. It was also an unarguably entertaining card that I would go so far as to call an early front-runner for Event of the Year. However, there still remains a great deal of debate regarding whether or not a promotion featuring only women’s divisions has a place in main stream marketability.
As a case study representative of the casual MMA fan, the Fight Nerd.com has cataloged the initial reactions to the Invicta FC 1 broadcast from a single viewer: my mom. What started as a family visit/transparent attempt to steal some of her famous turkey loaf yielded some perspective-changing results on Invicta’s future.
Maureen Febbraro is a Caucasian female from the suburbs in her mid-50′s. Like many casual fans, she is simultaneously intrigued and unnerved by the danger posed in combat sports. During my first amateur fight, she sat in the front row, dragged one of the industrial garbage pails in the venue to her seat and proceeded to dry heave into the bucket the entire time I was warming up. I had commissioned one of my photographer friends at the event to get a picture if my mother actually hurled but, unfortunately, it was not meant to be.
Invicta FC 1 was broadcast on a free internet stream via the promotion’s website. Overall reception to the format was positive. She especially appreciated the lack of commercial or promotional material between bouts on a free card. The Invicta broadcast did mark the first time that my mother actually listened to everything announcer Mauro Ranallo said during an event. Three separate analogies from the veteran commentator prompted her to ask, aloud, “What the hell is wrong with this guy?”
The one complaint registered about the stream is that Invicta had no Roku channel to project the broadcast onto the family-room television. This bit of insight could be shockingly useful to Invicta, considering the whole endeavor started off as a joke. See the conclusion for more details.
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For her favorite fight, my mother agreed with the overwhelming consensus and Fight of the Night bonuses awarded to Kaitlin Young and her opponent Leslie Smith for their herculean effort that ended in a draw.
While the defensive efforts in the fight weren’t the most technical, which was obvious even to the layman audience being observed, the bout still proved to be a huge success. Apparently, the female 40-60 audience likes a good shoot out just as much as the male 18-35 audience.
Favorite Individual Performance
Of all the athletes on the card, my mother reacted best to the co-main event winner Jessica Penne and her dominant display over a top-ranked Lisa Ellis. While Penne put on an impressive upset of the favored Ellis, this opinion may have been skewed. An interview with Penne discussing her new pitbull puppy was what initially peaked my mother’s interest in the card.
Least Favorite Fight
Only one actual bout on the card was met with any complaint: the tilt between Sarah Maloy and Michelle Gutierrez. While she approved of Maloy’s attempts to force engagement via any means possible, my mother noted that the fight was made boring by Gutierrez who “just ran away like a pussy.” The response leads me to believe that the women over 40 demographic may actually be a more articulate version of the TUF Noob audience.
In a follow-up days later, my mother once again expressed her disgust with Gutierrez’s fighting style, marking the first time she has ever remembered a non-headlining fighter’s full name after an event. Gutierrez clearly makes an impression as a heel.
While this article was originally crafted to share with the internet the joys of my old, sainted mother cursing at a live sports broadcast, it actually yields some very interesting information. Five years ago, the Nintendo Wii was surprised to discover an audience among retirees for their game system that was thought to be best marketed to young children. Invicta, and any American all-women’s promotion to come after it, may be looking at a similar secondary audience for their product.
MMA promotions always obsess over the male 18-35 demographic, as these are traditionally the people who watch mixed martial arts. But the women’s divisions hold what, in retrospect, should be an obvious appeal to women. There seems to be a growing amount of anecdotes that would indicate a particular interest among women at or around the baby boomer generation, who were raised when female empowerment first entered the household lexicon.
To that end, something as simple as a Roku channel could greatly increase Invicta’s audience for coming cards. Set-top boxes such as the Roku, or gaming systems that perform set-top streaming as a secondary function, have become the way for older generations to intake online entertainment. The unexpected popularity of the Wii I mentioned earlier also led to a massive increase in Netflix subscriptions among retirees who realized they could also use the system to stream movies.
Overall, older women may be an avenue that needs more serious marketing research in the future.