You can view the original post on my blog here.
People often think that nobody cares about the female divisions and that they aren't draws, that nobody will pay to see them. If I'm being honest, I'd mostly agree. It's not that women don't have the potential to be big draws (I actually think they have more potential than most men), it's just that the UFC and Strikeforce haven't really invested enough in them to see returns.
I started on this line of thinking when I heard Ronda say this:
My reflex was to think: "Keep" bringing them in? Her last fight against Julia Budd was the least watched Strikeforce event ever, and she was featured as the co-main event. Never mind paying to see her fight, people barely tuned in for free to watch her.
But there's some dishonesty in that thinking. It hardly tells the whole story.
First, after her fight with Budd she had around 7k twitter followers. Now she has 22k and gaining more every day. She's been relentless with interviews and become a (somewhat) hot topic on the online MMA news sites. There's a new piece or video on Ronda almost every few days.
Second, while women may not be big draws, pretty much nobody in Strikeforce is a big draw.
Who do you think has the most twitter followers in the Strikeforce roster? Here's a list of some of the bigger names:
Gina Carano - 58k (If you want to count her)
Miesha Tate - 33k
Gilbert Melendez - 26k
Keith Jardine - 25k
Ronda Rousey - 22k
Josh Barnett - 21k
Cristiane Santos - 18k
Herschel Walker - 14k
King Mo - 13k
Dan Cormier - 13k
Tim Kennedy - 12k
Bigfoot Silva - 11k
Cavalcante - 8k
Sarah Kaufman - 8k
Tyrone Woodley - 7k
Luke Rockhold - 6k
KJ Noons - 6k
Carmouche - 3k
If using twitter as a measuring stick (I know it's not close to perfect, but there's correlation between twitter followers and public interest) Miesha Tate and Gina Carano are Strikeforce's biggest names. I guarantee Ronda will have just as many followers after she fights Miesha on March 3rd.
Gilbert Melendez is the only fighter with significant followers that isn't a product of the Zuffa hype machine. It's important to know that very few fighters are actually making Zuffa significant money. The UFC basically headlines a card with a couple of bigger names that people will be willing to see, and once those headliners have brought an audience in they are then exposed to an undercard filled with names they've never seen. Hopefully through some neat pre-fight packages and good fights the audience will grow to like one or two new fighters they had never seen before.
The more cards they buy the more new names they grow to love the more cards they'll want to see (provided those names are on separate cards).
The women have hardly had this opportunity. They haven't had the UFC's audience, they haven't had as many fights to present themselves (If I remember correctly Strikeforce had 15 female fights this last year. That's nothing!), most 'journalists' don't bother doing the legwork to learn and publicize the stories of each female fighter.
Instead of trying to create and present stars (I use that term loosely considering its a "star" within a small MMA online community) with interesting stories that will create hits they just wait for a female to make significant noise and then do what they can to capitalize on it (like with Ronda). Everyone wants to pick the apples from the tree but nobody wants to plant any seeds.
I'm actually kinda surprised the Women have done so well for themselves. I now believe the Women are Strikeforce's biggest asset. Now that they've been bought out by Zuffa hopefully they'll get promoted like they deserve.
The more I learn about the female divisions the more I'm convinced if they were shuffled into the UFC they would do just fine. I'd also be interested to see if a major mma news website could create a star out of a nobody.