December 1, 2012, 10:36 PM
By Shawn W. Smith
When Georges St-Pierre commented during a UFC 154 pre-fight interview that he was not a fan of female mixed martial arts, few thought much of it. St-Pierre is a busy man and between his traditional upbringing and personal training, few would blame the UFC welterweight champion for not taking an interest in women’s MMA.
The few, of course, does not include Miesha Tate.
After St-Pierre’s comments, Tate took to her website, condemning the Canadian for his comments, and said the women of mixed martial arts “aren’t fragile little creatures” and aren’t “asking for your protection.”
It was a random, if not bizarre, post from Tate. She was thoroughly offended that one of the sport’s leading figures was not interested in watching her compete. The former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion had worked for years to be accepted among mixed martial arts elite, and a fighter whom she referred to as an “all-time favourite” had never taken the time to watch her fight.
Perhaps Tate was actually offended by the comments, or maybe the influence of Ronda Rousey had convinced her she needed to be more outspoken. Whatever the case, Tate’s comments seem unfounded.
Although Tate has worked hard for her spot, there are many reasons female MMA is not as popular or accepted as male MMA. The idea of women fighting is new to the mainstream culture, and is something even MMA fans have to get used to. Ask a casual sports fan at your local bar and I assure you most will not even know that women competed in MMA.
To compare the amount of male fighters in comparison to female fighters, you would find there are many more men who compete, and to argue that women’s MMA should be on the same levels in both popularity and appreciation is non-sensible.
It is important for “Cupcake” to remember that mixed martial arts is not a fully accepted sport on any level. Jaunt over to ESPN.com and you’ll see that mixed martial arts appears in the “other sports” category, just ahead of horse racing and poker. A sport with as much violence and brutality as MMA does not appeal to everyone, and there’s very little the athletes can do to change that.
With MMA being such a niche market, it’s completely understandable and logical that female MMA would appeal to an even smaller audience. Outside of the Olympic Games and perhaps tennis, there are few well-known and recognized female athletes. This is not to say things should be like this, but the mainstream has not accepted women’s professional sports and MMA is no different.
By no means am I arguing the women of MMA are less talented or take the sport any less seriously. They have worked diligently both on their skills and promoting the sport to achieve accolades few women have matched in other professional sports.
Athletes such as Rousey and Gina Carano have been positive ambassadors for MMA and are amongst the most well-known female athletes in North America. Whether or not Rousey’s outspoken personality is good or bad for the sport may be up for debate, but there’s no denying that her brash persona and good looks are attracting attention. Her recent comments about taking part in copious amounts of sex before a fight had media talking, including TMZ where Rousey has become a regular.
Tate too sees herself as an ambassador and spokeswoman for MMA, and especially female MMA. It’s critical for her to understand mixed martial arts and particularly women’s MMA is not for everyone. Advocates of the sport have long fought to have the sport legalized and accepted by the mainstream media, and to have the women of the sport accepted on the same level will be a long and strenuous battle.
Shawn W. Smith is the senior writer at MMASucka.com and has contributed to Train Hard, Fight Easy and Fighters Only magazines. Follow him on Twitter @shawn_w_smith.