A round begins and again we hear commentator Mike Goldberg say, “the beautiful Arianny” as a woman holding a round card approaches our low angle shot to blow a kiss. Right afterward, Ronda Rousey, female MMA superstar, locks her grip around another doomed opponent, and I hear a question, “Hey, wouldn’t it be better to have Chip N’ Dale dancers for ring card holders when the ladies are fighting?”

It’s my wife saying this. She’s there next to me, watching the card, drawn into the fight game by the UFC’s recent gender inclusion and by her desire to see this cocky Rousey eat some crow (spoiler alert, she doesn’t). “Oh sure,” I say, “bring some Thunder From Down Under in there. I’d love to see the crowd’s reaction.”

It’s a wry line of logic and one I’ve heard before, and the image it brings to mind–that of a pro muscled ladies’ night dancer walking down the cage corner steps to blow a kiss for that same low angle shot–is pretty funny at first thought. On second thought, this parody is more pointed. The answer to that “Why don’t they?” question reveals how crude the ring girl gimmick is–a vestige of tradition that adds nothing to the sport itself while damaging a value that MMA has acquired only recently: dignity.

Like many other fight enthusiasts, I like to look at this still incipient sport on its scale of evolution. No doubt that curve is exponential, especially since current UFC President Dana White took over after the medieval turbulence of the 90s. No doubt it’s come a long way from portly men whamming each other’s nutsacks in a game of groin-point Donkey Kong. But I think there’s still some room for growth. So I invite you to participate in an activity that has probably benefited the fight game so far: weighing the positives and negatives. What does the ring girl bring to the sport besides the blow of a kiss and a number? And should she, like so many other things, become a relic of the sport?

 

The Positives of the Ring Girl:

1. Sex appeal

2. Viewers can see the how round numbers look when on a big handheld sign.

3. …sex appeal

 

The Negatives of the Ring Girl:

I’ll elaborate on these, since I know the burden of proof lies with the prosecution here. You might anticipate that one of these will contain some gripe about how the ring girl act is demeaning or objectifying, which, of course, it is, but you won’t find any ethical arguments here since that’s actually a knottier issue than it seems and this isn’t a journal of philosophy. My grievances all deal with the involvement of the act in the sport and in the business.

 

1. It doesn’t enhance the experience of the sport itself. It’s one of the few components of the show that’s irrelevant to the presentation of the fight and the fighters. If aliens were to fly in from a distant galaxy and study athletic competition, they might comprehend why humans love to watch a bout: the struggle, the risk, the uncertainty, the skill. But I don’t think they’d quite get why there needs to be a scantily clad lady holding up a round number and making mock smooches for the camera every five minutes. In other words, it’s a distraction; excess that should be trimmed away. I’m not saying that seeing hot babes work their moxie isn’t fun for the majority of the MMA crowd. I’m just saying that it’s not what they’re watching a fight for. If sex appeal is what you want, there are plenty of better, more appropriate places to look, especially if you’re in Vegas.

2. It’s not as sexy as it’s supposed to be. Sorry, but your Brittney Palmers of the world can’t stop a sexy routine from becoming stale after it’s been done hundreds and hundreds of times. Even if the great Bettie Page had posed the same every day, people would’ve gotten tired with her. The same rule applies to all bombshell acts. The fact is there’s no variety in the ring girl bit, no added twist. Conversely, cheerleaders, another of sports’ sex appeal acts, are more dynamic. They dance, they shout, they show off new choreography and get the fans to participate in context-relevant chants. There’s more room for performance, for personality. Am I the only one who thinks the ring girls look bored, sitting in those chairs, waiting for the next round?

3. It’s too focused. If the UFC wants to broaden its audience base, a desire which Dana White has confessed on multiple occasions, it needs to broaden its appeal. And having an irrelevant segment that mainly appeals to a straight male audience while alienating everyone else  isn’t helping.

 

Summary: Since #2 on the negative camp limits the effects of #1 and since #2 and #3 in the positive side are jokes, the nays have it. There’s more to be gained from the fight world getting rid of the forced sex appeal of the ring girl gimmick according to this run-through. But then maybe I’m not painting the full picture. What do you think? Give us your take in the comments below.

 

About The Author

Paul French
Staff Writer

Paul French is a martial arts enthusiast currently residing in Cloudcroft, N.M. He's the former Managing Editor for the literary magazine, Puerto del Sol, and has had poetry published in Word Riot, Harpur Palate and Slipstream. Paul has trained in Karate, Muay Thai, Taekwondo and Jiu-Jitsu.