Sam Wilson, a highly respected activist in the WMMA community, said on Dec. 23 in an exclusive interview with Long Island MMA Examiner Eric Holden that she believes 2014 will be a breakout year for Invicta FC because fight fans now realize the promotion features the next wave of female athletes on their way to the UFC.
Wilson, who currently works in WMMA as a freelance matchmaker, athlete-relations rep and sponsorship-finder, kindly took a few minutes from her busy schedule to answer questions about her extensive history in the sport, along with some of the most pressing issues facing women's MMA today.
Here's what she had to say:
Q. For those who are unfamiliar with your work, how long have you been involved with women's MMA and what does your work history include?
Wilson: I have been involved with FMMA for eight years now. I started as an adviser for Fatal Femmes, a California-based female card. From there, I became a freelance match maker and a 'go-to' person for research/match ups and liaisons with promotions and manager/fighters.
I have worked with Tuff-N-Uff, KOTC, Deep, CAMO and Strikeforce, to name a few. I met Shannon [Knapp] through Strikeforce years ago when Miesha Tate was relatively unknown and we worked together getting her on to fight Elaina Maxwell. As of today, I have lost count with the promotions, managers and fighters that I work with on a daily basis.
Q. That is great. You have seen WMMA grow from a bit of a 'sideshow spectacle' to the legit sport it is today. There is still a lot of work to be done, but what would you say is the biggest issue or problem facing WMMA today?
Wilson: I think financial backing is the biggest problem. If media were able to see FMMA as a viable money maker, then promotions such as Invicta would be able get on national television, opening the doors for sponsorship paydays as well as ROI for fighters paydays.
Q. Speaking of television deals, do you think Invicta FC will land a deal in the year ahead?
Wilson: I believe that 2014 will be a bust out year for Invicta. With the partnership and working with UFC, I believe that more fans will want to see where these UFC fighters are coming from.
I think Shannon Knapp has the ability to foresee in the future and sees this move will bring what Invicta needs to get the backing from a television/PPV deal. Shannon is one of the hardest working executives in this business. She is a perfectionist and wants the best for her athletes. So I believe she will wait for the best deal on the table.
Q. In other matters, you are well-known for your stance on sex appeal in WMMA. You seem to be very much opposed to writers focusing on appearance and sex appeal rather than athleticism. Can you explain why you feel that way?
Wilson: I want the athletes to be seen for what they are, athletes. Not sex objects! These athletes train hard everyday, their blood sweat and tears should not be gauged by what they wear to a weigh in or a photo shoot. You have stated numerous times that it brings in the curious fan.
The fans that watch FMMA are those who are invested either by athlete, gym or sponsors. The athletes also need to make money in order to train, pay bills and basically survive. How they get sponsors should have no bearing on who they are in the cage. But some journalists focus on that instead of their athletic abilities.
Q. You said in a recent radio interview that 'the legitimate media are going after the people who matter and that's part of who FMMA Awesomeness is, is growing that community and getting the word out and showing these people who haven't seen an MMA fight that these are legitimate athletes.' Your point seems to be that people who tune in for sex appeal are wayward fans who don't really matter, correct?
Wilson: No, I did not say that. I am saying that you are trying to make out that the 'sexy' -'pretty' fighters are what brings in new viewers, when in all reality those who stay true to the sport are those who watch the athleticism of the fighters. Yes, those who see Felice and or Nicdali on Facebook may want to check them out in their sport, but how many of those will continue to watch a card that they are not on?
Q. Some moviegoers pay to see Channing Tatum and Brad Pitt movies because they are good-looking, while others pay because they like their acting. Either way, they are supporting the product by putting money into it. So why should it matter why someone tunes in? Shouldn't it only matter that they do tune in and put money into it?
Wilson: You are comparing a movie-star to an athlete. Is that what you are asking? Why do people tune into the Olympics? Or NFL or Basketball? They tune in to watch the athlete compete.
The same is said for MMA. Its sports entertainment, the athletes get paid to do what they love to do. As for drama in the sport? I am sure if you were to ask Dana White or Shannon Knapp, they would choose not to have it.
Q. That is the next thing I wanted to bring up. Ronda Rousey recently came out saying that 'the drama' is no longer necessary when it comes to WMMA marketing. Do you agree?
Wilson: I agree that as she said it gets tiring to keep up the public's view of what they want the drama to be. You have heard her say over and over that she is a fighter and thats what she loves to do. Her personality is a part of her genetic make up.
Q. Some fans initially give WMMA a chance only because they discover it from sexy photo shoots and promo ads. For many, the initial interest created by 'sex appeal' fades away after watching a couple fights, after they find out that the women bring it just as hard as the men. What do you think about that?
Wilson: I think each female fighters brings their own level of professionalism to the sport. How an individual person sees them, be it an athlete or as you say 'sex appeal,' is on them.
I believe the bottom line, the true fan will watch because of the athlete and the fighting ability. I can't say I have looked at any of the athletes and and thought "wow sexy" or 'she's hot'. Does it bother me that some push the limit, yes, but if she gets in the cage and performs to her level of a pro fighter, then she has my backing.