(“Great to have you aboard, Sara! Now what size latex bodysuit do you wear?”)
By George Shunick
In a press release distributed yesterday, upstart women’s MMA promotion Invicta FC announced that they were sending bantamweight contender Sara McMann to Strikeforce. McMann is a perfect 6-0 in MMA — including wins over Shayna Baszler, Hitomi Akano, and Tonya Evinger — and won a silver medal in women’s freestyle wrestling at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. McMann was originally slated to fight for Invicta’s bantamweight title in her next appearance, but now that she is in Strikeforce, a title shot against Ronda Rousey seems quite plausible if she can make it through her first fight. Neither the date nor opponent for McMann’s Strikeforce debut have been announced yet.
It’s not every day that a fight promotion willingly sends one of its top contenders and budding stars to a competing promotion. However, according to President Shannon Knapp, Invicta’s goals aren’t based on hanging on to specific fighters:
“Since we established Invicta FC at the beginning of this year, our goal has been to produce the best possible matchups between women mixed martial artists and, to achieve this, we sometimes need to import talent like Sarah Kaufman from elsewhere as well as to send talent like Sara McMann to a place like Strikeforce where there is a healthy amount of championship level professional women’s MMA competition just like there is on our roster.”
Invicta’s mission to positively impact women’s MMA, and the lengths they are willing to go to accomplish that mission, is extraordinarily admirable. But they aren’t fools either; Invicta draws viewers not due to name recognition — yet — but because they put on consistently exciting cards. Losing a big name like McMann doesn’t hurt them because, well, McMann isn’t actually a big name. There are only two big draws in women’s MMA right now, and they’re not in Invicta.
Speaking of one of those big draws, it seems likely that McMann will eventually face off against Strikeforce bantamweight champ “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. Suffice it to say, like any other woman who lacks the testosterone of five men, I don’t like Sara’s chances. McMann does one thing, and does it well; she puts people on their back. That might not be the best strategy against the best grappler in women’s MMA. (Right, Sarah Kaufman?) It’s great that McMann is being recognized for her achievements and is getting this opportunity. But when it comes down to it, it’s unlikely she’ll be able to stop Rousey from adding to her collection of mangled arms.
Still, it would be easy to promote a match between two undefeated fighters who also happen to be Olympic medalists — and if Cyborg can’t deflate down to 135, Rousey vs. McMann could turn out to be the Next Big Fight in women’s MMA.