According to a May 28 report from TXMMA.com, a handful of prominent female fighters have spoken out against the way some members of the media have focused more on physical appearance than their skill and athleticism inside the cage.
Invicta FC star Lauren Taylor, Dakota FC vet Amber “The Apex Predator” Stautzenberger and Texas standout Karen Kovach were among the most notable names to take a stand against this type of coverage, as they say their efforts are being overlooked due to the media’s reliance on “top ten sexy fighter” lists and other articles they allege are demeaning in nature.
“Please, recognize my hard work! Recognize the [time] I spent training for this. All the blood, sweat, tears, and stress, the time away from my family and friends, the money I’ve spent in training camps to come here and fight well for the fans,” said Taylor.
“Imagine what it feels like to have all [your effort and fight skills] overlooked (…) everything I’ve poured into coming here and entertaining the fans, to dismiss it with a callous comment like, ‘She’s hot’ Or even worse, ‘She’s ugly.’ They’ve completely disregarded the hard work I’ve put in and instead focused on something I have no control over, and in some cases degraded me in the process.”
Stautzenberger took it a step further, explaining that some of her fellow female fighters are representing the sport in a light that won’t earn them respect or legitimacy.
“Every woman deserves respect, but to be honest, there are females fighters who represent themselves ‘sleazily’ and wonder why they get talked to the way they do,” Stautzenberger said. “It takes self-respect to get respect, especially when little girls look up to you.”
Taylor and Stautzenberger stated their case eloquently, but the argument needs to explored more deeply before we can jump to the conclusion that playing up sex appeal hurts the sport.
Muay thai champ Tiffany Van Soest once said “I tell them they can come for my looks, but once they see me compete they become a fan for the way that I fight. Come for my looks, but stay for my skill!”
Van Soest makes a great point, which shows many fans are initially drawn in by the good looks, only to discover there’s incredible skill behind it.
Many fans of WMMA only initially gave the sport a chance because Showtime marketed the Miesha Tate vs Ronda Rousey fight basically as two hot babes in leather in most of their promo ads to hype the fight.
Once people were initially drawn in by the good looks of Rousey and Tate, they tuned in and thought to themselves ‘oh wow, these girls have serious skill and really bring it just as hard as the guys.’
From there, many of those fans discovered fighters like Liz Carmouche and Sarah Kaufman because Rousey fought them after she fought Miesha. So essentially, that would mean Rousey’s tight-fitting black leather sexy promo ads resulted in people discovering other female fighters who are perhaps less marketable.
Other fans might initially purchase an MMA event ticket because they saw a fighter such as Felice Herrig, showing off her body in a sexy photo shoot. Once they are inside the event, they would likely discover other fighters who don’t play up sex appeal.
Also, it’s not a one size fits all model when it comes to embracing the sexy angle. Some fighters absolutely love being marketed that way, while others do not like being viewed in that light.
WMMA fighters such as Felice Herrig and Carla Esparza are not afraid to show off their fun, girly softer side, but Lauren Taylor and Jessica Penne are opposed to being viewed in that light.
WMMA strives to be a tight-knit, understanding and accepting community, so it’s a bit hypocritical for WMMA fighters who don’t play up the sexy angle to look down on the fighters who do opt to do sexy photo shoots to enhance their careers.
The female fighters who play up sex appeal helped the sport reach new heights and achieve greater success. If the community is so tight and accepting as they say they are, they shouldn’t make the “sexy photo shoot” fighters feel like outcasts for opting to market themselves as they do.
MMA fans and fighters should also see what Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp had to say about MMA writers playing up the sexy angle.