Invicta FC has become the darling of the MMA world, but all that could change if a deal with Showtime Sports becomes a reality.

The conversation about Invicta FC joining with Showtime isn’t new. Speculation began almost immediately after the promotion started to build a solid base in the MMA scene. The all-women Invicta FC is something unique in the MMA world, and Showtime Sports definitely has its eye on the promotion.

“If there was an obvious choice or a clear choice about getting back into MMA, we would’ve done it already. But I agree that, probably the highest visibility, probably the most noteworthy promotion that’s distinguished itself out there, other than the ones aligned with TV networks, is probably Invicta.”

Those were the words of Showtime Sports executive Stephen Espinoza. Regardless of whether negotiations are ongoing between the two parties, it’s clear Showtime Sports is interested in the uniqueness of Invicta FC.

After all, women’s MMA is experiencing a boom in popularity since the rise of Ronda Rousey. With the UFC adding a women’s division, the intrigue in female fighters figures to grow even larger. That should in theory provide Invicta FC with a solid fan base, given that it is the only promotion to exclusively offer women’s bouts. That also means the world’s best fighters outside of 135 pounds will likely fight under the Invicta FC banner, increasing the brand’s credibility.

At first thought, it would seem to make perfect sense for Invicta and Showtime to pair up. The network wants to get back into the MMA world, and Invicta continues to grow and undoubtedly is looking for a major media outlet to showcase the unique product Showtime wants. However, an agreement between Showtime and Invicta wouldn’t be helpful to either side.

With the age demographic of Showtime subscribers being a little older than the typical MMA demographic, don’t expect there to be too much interest in women’s MMA. It’s already a niche sport and the market on Showtime isn’t where you’ll find a lot of interest for that product. The network struggled with Strikeforce, which was widely regarded as the second best promotion in the world. How is it expected to not only produce a worthwhile product that only appeals to certain MMA fans, but also generate enough interest for viewers to tune in?

And what of Showtime’s “backstage influence” on Strikeforce? MMA fans will remember when Gilbert Melendez went down with an injury, Showtime opted not to air the event.

“When Showtime informed us that it would not be airing the event, we made the difficult decision to cancel Saturday’s card in Sacramento,” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said in the release. “Without a television partner, we simply could not move forward with this event.”

Invicta can’t afford to cancel a card due to one fighter’s injury. The promotion is too new to have fans’ goodwill to fall back on if a card gets canceled. We all saw the backlash the UFC endured when UFC 151 had to be scrapped. Would fans be so forgiving of Invicta?

The upstart promotion looks to feature high-quality match-ups rather than the blockbuster superfights that were so prevalent on Strikeforce cards. The promotion’s matchmaker, Janet Martin, has done a stellar job of creating pairings that, regardless of disparities in experience or notoriety of the fighters, turn out to be entertaining bouts once the cage door closes.

And plenty of Martin’s pairings that will please fans won’t necessarily please Showtime execs. If Showtime doesn’t see marquee names, it might balk at the idea of the match-up altogether. After all, Showtime has shown that its interests lie in previously established names, not building homegrown stars (just look at Strikeforce’s Challengers series for proof of that). Remember Bec Hyatt? Her late-replacement title bid and subsequent rise to being a fan favorite may not have happened at all had Invicta been in a partnership with Showtime. The network might have opted to go the same route it did with Strikeforce in the Melendez scenario—if it can’t have a big name, it would rather have nothing at all.

With ratings and viewership always a top priority for the network, you can bet Showtime will have its say in how Invicta puts its cards together.

And for Invicta, choosing a network that is broadcast to so few homes wouldn’t be the ideal way to lure more viewers to its product. After all, the final Strikeforce event managed a meager 310,000 viewers on Showtime and Strikeforce’s best numbers of 2012 were only 529,000 viewers with Rousey as a headliner. Invicta doesn’t have a headliner with that kind of drawing power and certainly doesn’t yet have the brand recognition that Strikeforce had.

What Invicta needs to do is try to find a nationally broadcasted network to call home. Much like how Bellator struggled with its partnership with MTV2, Invicta should expect much of the same if it chooses to pair up with Showtime. The networks similar to Spike TV aren’t the end of the road for the upstart Invicta, but they’re a far better launching pad than a premium network like Showtime.

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

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.