Opinion: Can Invicta FC Compete with the UFC’s Women’s Division?
By Jesse Heitz
Last night, Invicta FC held their fifth card, arguably the most anticipated and heavily stacked female MMA card in the history of the sport. However, I’m left pondering the future of this innovative promotion. Not only are there business model concerns to be discussed, but also a possible issue can be found in Invicta’s long-term ability to sign and retain top-level talent.
Certainly, when Invicta first emerged in 2011, there was a market for an all female MMA promotion. Strikeforce hadn’t utilized female talent very well, and as late as 2010, had held women’s title bouts from headlining status. Furthermore, after the Zuffa acquisition of Strikeforce, serious and rational concerns were raised over the future of women’s MMA.
Strikeforce had been the traditional home for women’s MMA, and as one July 2011 Sports Illustrated article put it, “since Zuffa bought Strikeforce, women’s MMA has waited for the axe to fall”. The extinction of women’s MMA was a distinct possibility given UFC President Dana White’s rather cool attitude toward the whole idea and his repeated statements about his belief that the talent in women’s MMA was too thin to allow for the successful promotion of a women’s division.
UFC 157, which was headlined by the inaugural UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey’s first title defense against Liz Carmouche. This event, with its 500,000 pay-per-view buys, singlehandedly proved that the prospect of increased revenues can force a promoter like Dana White to throw his energy behind things that he might not have originally supported. It also proved that a resources-rich promotion such as the UFC, with an overwhelming MMA market share, was in the women’s MMA game for keeps. As such, the demand for a women’s only MMA promotion has been greatly reduced.
As I alluded to earlier, one problem that Invicta is sure to face, particularly now that the UFC has committed itself to hosting women’s MMA, is the ability to sign and retain the world’s top female fighters. Lately, it has done well with acquiring talent due to the UFC’s phased transition into supporting a fully operable women’s division. Invicta has acquired some of the top talent, such as: Sarah Kaufman, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, and Marloes Coenen.
Yet how long will it be until Invicta’s top fighters look to the UFC and its deep pockets and high profile? Sarah Kaufman has already essentially stated that she’s fighting in Invicta basically in order to stay in shape until the UFC comes calling. Alexis Davis, one of the world’s top Bantamweights, has recently been plucked from Invicta by the UFC, and is now set to compete at UFC 161.
In the end, the question remains, can Invicta maintain a lion’s share of the women’s MMA market when it’s now pitted against the Goliath of the MMA world in the UFC? Will it be able to remain the women’s MMA powerhouse, or will it be relegated to second-tier status?