Mixed martial arts has long been the province of men. MMA was born from the hyper macho Gracie family - founder Carlos Gracie, Sr had 21 kids from three wives and three girlfriends; one of the girlfriends and one of the wives were sisters. When the UFC debuted in 1993, the fanbase was overwhelmingly male.
However, with the growth of MMA into a modern sport, things have changed, so much so that in a 2011 interview. UFC president Dana White estimated that 45% of the fanbase is now female,
"We created the Ultimate Fighter for males, everything, this whole thing was created for males and we never saw how many women would get into this," said White. "Probably 45% of our fanbase is now female. There was just a story done by Fox where girls were taking girls-trips to Vegas for fights. Whenever you go to any of the big fights, there's girls there with their husbands or their boyfriends or whatever but there's a lot of girls there either by themselves or with friends. It's been amazing how fast our female fanbase has grown. We didn't see that coming."
One unexpected result of the MMA fanbase is romance novels with an MMA theme. In an interview with USA Today, Sarah Castille, author of Against the Ropes, shares the top three reasons that MMA is HOT in romance right now.
1. Have you seen the fighters?
MMA has come a long way from the days where two gritty brawlers faced off in a down-and-dirty, vicious fight to the finish. To be competitive today, fighters must cross-train in a number of different martial arts based around takedowns and submissions as well as striking arts. Or to put it in simple terms, they have to be SUPER fit. And super fit is superfine, especially if you have a product — or a sport — to promote.
Celebrity status, athleticism, and mouth-watering good looks are a winning combination.
Alpha males and sexual attraction
Many women are attracted to men with qualities that are survival-related. And what is more survival-related than the ability to fight? It speaks to a deep biological need for protection from a strong male ... an alpha male.
Yes, fighters embody all the qualities of the quintessential alpha male. Dominant and dangerous, controlling and confident, fighters are the "forbidden fruit," the bad boys who need to be tamed. And who doesn't want one of those? At least in an escapist, guilty pleasure, only-on-my-Kindle kind of way.
Romance readers looking for heroes other than tormented billionaires, dashing dukes, or sword-wielding highlanders have to look no further than their own living room to trip the light fantastic with their choice of charismatic Axe Murderers, Arm Collectors, Icemen, Rhinos, Goliaths, Ninjas, Mayhems, Pitbulls, Tanks and Predators. Names don't get more alpha than that. No wonder MMA is HOT in romance!
Subliminal sexual messages
Seriously. I had to include this. And yet when I ran it through my search engine very little came up. Maybe it's just me and I think naughty thoughts. But, then, I wrote a naughty book.
Click on any MMA Glossary, and you will be amazed at the number of sexually suggestive and BDSM-related terms.
Fighters try to take the "dominant" position and put their opponents into "submission." This can be achieved by "mounting" the opponent. There are a variety of mounts including "full," "rear" and "mount control."
Fight equipment includes grapple dummies named "The Submission Master" and the life-like "Grapple Man." Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be) they are not anatomically correct.
Suggestive moves include: the "ground and pound," in which the strategy is to get the opponent on the ground, be on top, and pound away from a dominant position; the "collar tie," in which the fighter clasps his hands around the opponent's neck; the "rear naked choke" ('nuff said).
Who can resist a fighter who "dominates" the cage, "controls" his opponent, or "rides" a submission? Not me, as my Kindle will attest. Not you ... guilty-pleasure lovers of the alpha male. And not the heroine of Against the Ropes, Makayla:
"You'll learn something," [Torment] says. His voice takes on the authoritative teaching tone he used with Homicide Hank. "If you understand the positions, you can better understand the injuries."
Hmmm. Do I want to roll around on the mat with two half-naked, super-fit men? Yes, please.
"Okay, if it will help you out." I slip off my shoes and kneel on the mat while Torment and Jimmy discuss what to do with me. My pulse pounds so hard I can barely hear them over the rush of blood through my veins. This is sports. It has nothing to do with sex. Sports. Sports. Sports.
Torment puts his hand on my shoulder. "Lie on your back, hands over your head, legs apart."
I lay on the mat just as he explained, and he kneels between my legs. The position leaves me vulnerable, exposed. Shivers of need course down my spine.
Jimmy sits to the side and Torment talks us through the move. He is so damn sexy when he's teaching. Confident, assured, knowledgeable, and patient. He explains he is going to mount me. Yes! And take a dominant position. Oh, yes! Then, once I have him in a triangle, he'll show Jimmy how to defend.
My brain fuzzes with lust.
So, what do both women on the UG think of Ms. Castille's work?