Gina Carano and the Power of Women's MMA

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Dave Meltzer maps out a potential future of what women's MMA could become - based on where it's been - with Gina Carano at the helm. To wit:

For UFC, the key to a women’s division at first would be Carano, and her contract situation is unclear with the Elite XC bankruptcy. But if she is available, it is not at all far-fetched she could become the biggest mainstream star in the sport, and become MMA’s answer to Danica Patrick.

Carano fought at 140 in Elite XC, and given her issues with making that number, it would be safer to use her in a 145-pound weight class. There are plenty of women who can fight at that weight, including former Elite XC fighters such as Santos, Young, Tonya Evinger, Kedzie, Kelly Kobold and non-Elite XC fighters such as Meisha Tate and Elaina Maxwell who are all well-trained and skilled fighters.

Osborne said there is actually far more depth at 125 and 135, noting people such as Sarah Kaufman (who Elite XC was using at 140), Tara LaRosa, Marloes Coenen, Rosi Sexton and Megumi Fujii, who are complete unknowns to anyone but the most hardcore fans. He believes there are 30-40 genuine quality women fighters today in those divisions.

There were women’s fights on all three of Elite XC’s shows on CBS. While the idea of MMA on CBS garnered the expected negative reaction from people who mostly had little or no understanding of the sport, there was virtually nothing negative written either before or after about the Carano vs. Kaitlin Young match.

And Young had massive swelling on her face, so the lightning rod of a women’s face being banged up from a fight, held live on CBS with millions watching, caused none of the feared outrage.

As far as the public not wanting to see women fight, the evidence couldn’t contradict the notion more. There have only been five MMA matches in history that have gained one million new viewers to a television show from the previous match. Two of them have been Carano’s two fights on CBS.

Based on minute-by-minute ratings and the increase from the prior match on the show, the largest-ever gain of new viewers for any MMA match on U.S. television was the Oct. 4 Carano vs. Kelly Kobold match. It gained 1,643,000 new viewers, growing the audience from 3.6 million to 5.2 million. Not shockingly, it gained 69 percent in males 18-34.

Most UFC television shows, in total, don’t even have 1,643,000 viewers.

Dana White has heretofore exercised smart, level headed judgment in making the UFC palatable to a new generation of sports fans, but he may very well be cutting off his nose to spite his face by excluding women from the UFC or WEC.

One argument MMA fans make about the reach and popularity of MMA is that the numbers don't lie. The UFC's live gates break records, the UFC's PPV business sets records and the television ratings of EliteXC and MMA on television routinely beat out traditional sports in coveted demographics. The same argument, by extension, applies to women. Their numbers do not lie and in a set of capable hands, the numbers about their worth and value added to a promotion that can properly use them simply would not lie.

More, please.

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