As we in the MMA world all know (cave dwellers non-withstanding) the UFC had it's first women's fight, and it's first woman lead PPV card. It was the grand culmination of years of quiet struggle for WMMA, and somewhat of a culmination of a quiet UFC re-branding that has been years in the works. For quite some time now, and much more so since the move to Fox, the UFC has been rebuilding itself as a family friendly promotion.
First it was the move away from sponsors like CondomDepot, The Gun Store, and Mickey's Malt Liquor, and toward brands like Harley Davidson, Nike, and whatever cheap action/sci-fi movie happens to be giving the direct-to-video market a near miss. They've run "family friendly" commercials and documentaries for their more charismatic fighters and eventually gone as far as to changed their intro, and some of their music. Fox has helped a great deal with this process by lending its giant fighting robots (that somehow still manage to be lamely American) and sports-music (duh-duh-duh-duuuuuh duh-duh duh-duh) quick hits.
Comparing the UFC's current brand to that of Bellator, on the former UFC home Spike, it's pretty obvious to see just how far the UFC has come in its goal to be a more acceptable TV sport that the whole family can watch (never mind that it hinges on loads of ultra-violence). And yet, post UFC 157, questions remain; more realistically one big question remains: Can the UFC become a more woman friendly promotion?
There are very few regular TV sports in America that are entirely woman friendly; tennis, golf, the WNBA, and maybe figure skating for it's given value as a sport. These sports feature woman announcers, intro music that doesn't remind 28 year old white men of who they were in high school, and nary a sign of cheerleaders, ring girls, etc.
Recently I noticed that Blair Butler has been getting face time in UFC promo material, namely the GSP vs. Diaz countdown special, where they've been listing her as an MMA commentator. This is leading me to wonder if they've hired her to do some guest announcing for WMMA fights, or cards where WMMA fights feature, because otherwise that credential is all based on her Attack of the Show work.
In an MMAWeekly interview in January she said this:
That being said, there may be something MMA-related in my not-too-distant future. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I’ll be doing a ton of writing. In the short term, it looks like I’ll be doing something else that I can’t quite talk about yet – but hopefully, “AOTS” fans will have a place to see me, soon. That’s all I can say for now. I’m not trying to be mysterious; I just can’t talk about it yet.
Whether that means anything or not, it does leave me wondering if the UFC will do more to bring in the female demographic beyond having women fight. Will they cut further back on the Nu Metal, will they have woman do the occasional commentary (hell they've got Julie Kedzie too, and she's awesome)? And would they ever, god forbid, get rid of ring girls?
I realize that last one may be extremely unpopular, I mean even Invicta couldn't bring itself to do it. But there are few parts of the UFC/MMA package more useless than the woman carrying a card around the ring in a bathing suit. It's notably absent from other female sports because it's a clear and consistent message that the principal role of women in this sport is purely decorative.
Maybe, in the long run, it doesn't matter. Maybe the woman who would watch already are, and the rest have been so thoroughly put off of combat sports, through social pressure and a history of non-inclusiveness, that no amount of re-branding could possibly bring them into the fold. I really have no idea, and while I'd like to see the UFC take a few of these last little steps away from false-machismo (seriously why do you need to make your sport look manly when it includes Wanderlei Silva), I don't live under the false impression that these steps are right around the corner.
But you never know, and even a partial victory would be a victory worth having.