The first and second cards of a burgeoning MMA promotion are always fun and games when a gimmick pays off. For Invicta Fighting Championship, the “gimmick” is the FMMA focus, and it is paying off well. Though Invicta isn’t the first FMMA focused North American promotion, it is the first to successfully market itself as such on a national level. Don’t misconstrue – “gimmick” is not a pejorative, it simply describes what FMMA is to Invicta in business terms, most particularly sales terms. The product they sell is MMA, the reason to buy theirs over others’ is that it’s all women. Much like a car lot offering a chance to win a free car after a test drive on Saturday, the real trick is turning the traffic that shows up for the gimmick into real customers. Invicta has the FMMA crowd, but that isn’t enough to sustain the brand. They also have hordes (relatively speaking) of casual fans who have logged into the free stream and locals who picked up a ticket that are there to take the test drive. Those people will need a quality product from the ground up if Invicta wants them to stick around.
Invicta is off to a solid start. They have courted several big names with easily sold stories or backgrounds and in their first effort in April they provided an entertaining show. The promotion successfully piqued the interest of the MMA buying public with serious FMMA as opposed to the tired old “girl fight” shtick. The second card follows along that path with Strikeforce FMMA names “The Jewel” Julia Budd (2-2), “The Lioness of the Ring” Amanda Nunes (6-2), “The Monster” Sarah D’ Alelio (5-2), “Girl-Rilla” Liz Carmouche (6-2), and Alexis Davis (11-5) taking advantage of even one bout worth of big show exposure and story lines like “The Queen of Spades” Shayna Baszler’s (14-6) laundry list of high profile FMMA wins, Sara McMann’s (5-0) Olympic Silver Medal, and “The Girl Fight Monster” Hitmoi Akano’s (18-9) status as a Japanese superstar filling the roster to provide a backdrop to the event. Where the real success or failure for Invicta lies, however, is outside the venue.
With a second successful event, Invicta will have cleared the first hurdle. They will have captured the attention of an audience much broader than the FMMA die hards who don’t understand they are too few to support their own cause. The second will be building a product that can consistently provide a reason other than “we fight and we’re girls” to keep the fans there. To do that, they need consistency and familiarity. Consistently good fights that recur within a predictable time frame featuring fighters the fans are familiar with. To get that, they need to stabilize their roster by signing their big ticket fighters to multi-fight, preferably exclusive contracts and more importantly than anything else, building the talent in their undercard. Unfortunately, they are off to a somewhat disappointing start in that regard. Of the 22 fighters from Invicta 1, only five are returning and just one of those was a fighter from the undercard. With a serviceable roster to build, as many undercard fighters as possible should have been brought back with the more impressive winners possibly taking spots on the main card against the more known fighters. Eight fighters are less than three fights into their career and while giving new blood a shot is admirable, it’s also why local circuits exist. Those spots could have been used to feature lesser-known FMMA talents that fans could come to know as they build on what they did at Invicta 1, but instead the promotion chose to rely once again on Zuffa marketed names while filling the card with what was convenient. This is acceptable in the second or even third event, but Invicta will soon lose its appeal to the general MMA crowd if it doesn’t follow a model of building talent from prelim to main event instead of simply importing main card talent from elsewhere.
Invicta has a firm base for success as the first truly successful all-FMMA promotion. They have the interest of and budding business relationships with several well-known FMMA talents as well as the working capital to capture newer rising talent and more seasoned journeywomen that haven’t yet hit the Strikeforce scene. A collection of four-fight deals with these fighters, exclusive where possible, would go far in the way of building a sustainable brand. The opportunity is there. The fans have taken notice in a way they never did before the Zuffa hype machine came into the FMMA picture and a fresh crop of marketable athletes are waiting and wanting to make history in the first legitimate and sanctioned FMMA league. The time is right and all the pieces are all in place – it’s your move, Invicta.
Invicta Fighting Championship’s sophomore effort will stream live here, July 28 starting at 7:00pm ET.