The all-women all-pro MMA promotion Invicta Fighting Championships, led by Shannon Knapp and Janet Martin, had a spectacular first year in 2012. The up-and-coming organization hit it big with viral marketing, commercial-free events, and free streaming of its first three cards on the internet.

Invicta has put on some of the best fights of the year in all of MMA, featuring top fighters like Marloes Coenen, Jessica Penne, Shayna Baszler, Liz Carmouche, Sara McMann, Julia Budd, Alexis Davis and Amanda Nunes. The best aspect of 2012 for Invicta fans is that they got to see 39 action-packed fights, commercial-free, at no cost.

Of those 39 fights in 2012, there were 15 submissions, 11 TKOs, one KO, 10 unanimous decisions, one split decision and one draw. Twenty-eight of the bouts, about 72 percent, ended in stoppage, which is a lot better than some of the biggest UFC cards of the year. And the high percentage of stoppages is not some fluke. These ladies are well matched up by Janet Martin, barring any injury replacements, and the fighters can all bring it.

Invicta is such a young promotion that it is still trying to get on its feet financially. While the free streaming events have piqued a lot of interest in the MMA community, outside of sponsorship, this isn’t a revenue stream. However, the next event, Invicta FC 4: Esparza vs. Hyatt, will not be free. It will still only be available online, as Invicta has not made the jump to television yet, but at a very reasonable price of $7.95. However, will the same number of people pay?

The first three Invicta events were reported to have over 250,000 in peak viewership for each event (granted, those numbers have received scrutiny from some segments of the MMA media). Not bad, considering the fact that the promotion is brand new and has other organizations to compete against. The viewership was definitely a lot of people “in the know,” because there wasn’t a ton of advertising. If it weren’t for Twitter and Facebook, these would have been difficult numbers to achieve. But Invicta proved grassroots marketing works.

But, just like any business, when there is an added cost to the consumer, the customer base instantly changes, even if that cost is only a few dollars. By adding one step to the process, like getting out a credit card and entering information online, the organization is risking a loss of viewership, both in people unwilling to pay and in people getting together to order and pay for an event, instead of watching by themselves for free. If Invicta did keep showing events for free, however, it would be leaving money on the table.

The most important question to ask is: would you rather have 100-percent retention of free viewers or 50-percent retention of paying viewers?

Invicta events, at 250,000 buys per event and $7.95 per buy, on a straight-line basis, would produce an additional revenue stream of almost $2 million to the organization. Even if the promotion took a 50-percent hit in the number of streams, it would be an additional $1 million in revenue to the business per event. The only real added cost is the online merchant payment system, which could be around 4 percent per credit card purchase.

Other than the glitch that the Invicta FC 2 feed had at the very beginning of the event, the streaming has been crystal clear with no problems. After Invicta FC 1 was such a hit, the servers took a beating at the beginning of the second installment, but that issue has since been addressed.

To the average person, it may seem like a lofty goal to raise an additional million, but it’s really not that unreasonable when considering what else is out there.

Promotions like Titan, Score Fighting Series and Bellator may be free on television, but there are commercials, lots of filler commentary, and tremendous costs to the organizations to host free events on television. Those events are also free only with the right cable suscription package. Another big drawback is that only the main cards are shown on television and the remainder of the event streams anyway.

With Invicta FC, one of the best aspects of the business model, for the consumer, is that the entire—up to fourteen-fight—cards are shown on the stream, from beginning to end, with very little fat in the middle to cause the event to last too long and lose the interest of viewers.

But the actual best part of Invicta is mentioned above.

Unlike the other big promotions, Invicta is an all-female organization, with many of the ladies training out of the best MMA schools in the world—Nova Uniao, American Top Team, Team Quest and Jackson’s MMA to name a few—and these ladies are animals, finishing 72 percent of the bouts. The girls are crushing each other, choking each other out, ripping off arms, and only going to decision by absolute war. The value, from start to finish of an event, to the viewer could be considered better than a lot of the UFC’s recent offerings, which often feature a top-heavy lineup or a card weakened by the withdrawal of injured fighters.

In addition to the value to the consumer, the arbitrary goal of $1 million is easy to realize when looking at what the UFC does and the funds it generates.

The UFC has all of the preliminary cards and several main cards available free, with the right package, on a combination of the Fox Networks and Facebook. However, that being said, there is still a huge revenue stream to Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the UFC, from the pay-per-view traffic.

An average UFC pay-per-view event in 2012 cost fans an average of $49.95 per purchase ($44.95 SD, $54.95 HD), with an average buyrate of about 428,500 purchases per event. That’s a revenue stream at an average of over $21 million per event. Of course, this includes purchases by bars and other commercial viewing venues.

In a nutshell, Invicta could generate 20 percent of the UFC’s pay-per-view revenue with more action, less commercials, and at a price point that is less than a 12-pack of domestic beer. That’s not too shabby for a promotion that is a year old. There are a lot of regional promotions that viewers would probably not shell out those eight bucks for, because those shows do not offer the same depth that Invicta does.

The ultimate question then comes down to whether Invicta is making the right choice by charging for only its fourth event.

The answer: Absolutely.

In fact, even though the promotion is young, it fills a niche of exciting professional female fighters that put on what could be argued to be shows that are more exciting than those featuring men, especially after so many fans have complained about shelling out 50 bucks for five-fight UFC pay-per-view cards that have been largely less exciting than the free preliminary cards.

Even if Invicta loses buys to cheapskates and consolidation of viewers, the revenue generated is exactly what the promotion needs to stay viable and marketable to sponsors. Plus, as people realize the value for the tremendous quality of events, this promotion could build itself up to at least $19.95 an event and still achieve a better value than any of the other promotions around, perhaps even the UFC.

Photo: The Invicta FC championship belt (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)