Shannon Ihrke has joined the VigilanteMMA staff, and will be providing insight on various MMA related topics in a monthly feature, as well as a monthly video blog that we’ll release soon. Please welcome the beautiful model, ring girl and Marine to the VigilanteMMA family by checking out her website ShannonIhrke.com and by following her on Twitter. Promoter’s can also book Shannon for shows, photo-shoots, modeling and appearances (Ricky@PhenomMgt.com).
We know it’s possible because it’s been proven time and time again. Valentina Tereshkova was the first female in space; Amelia Earhart took to the skies; and Irini Merlini found her niche on the wrestling mat. Sure, it’s still completely odd to see a female in a singlet wrestling around the mat with a boy at a high school wrestling meet. The sport is still vastly uncommon for females. As the manager on my high school wrestling team, I remember thinking how awkward it must be for a high school boy with raging hormones to roll around the mat with a girl. Not only that, but what guy wants to lose to a girl in front of his teammates?
Some of these girls are just plain tough though! But what do these incredibly skilled female athletes do after high school, college and sometimes, the Olympics? Well, ladies like Sarah McMann have been taking their knowledge of wrestling to the caged ring. And now, with woman’s MMA on the rise, it is slowly becoming more accepted to see these girls in the wrestling, karate, kickboxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community. These fighters are showing that they do, in fact, have everything it takes to compete in a high intensity, fast paced, dog eat dog environment.
Invicta Fighting Championships has shown us that they can do more than fight though; they can actually get more views than some of the latest all-male fight cards. According to Invicta, they draw 233,580 views via web stream! But can this popularity continue? Yes it can. Sure, Dana White has said that he loves Ronda Rousey, and who doesn’t? She’s a beautiful badass! She’s definitely put female MMA into the public eye, but hopefully she’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Some of the best fights I’ve personally seen have been female fights. I’ll never forget the first female fight I saw live as a ring girl for King of the Cage. The fight was between Rose Namajunas and Heather Bassett and neither of these girls was backing down. These two girls looked like two 125 pound pissed-off Pitbulls. They were leaning into their punches full-force and both had great striking ability. Heather got her nose punched in a few times too many by Rose and the next thing you know blood was in the mix.
At the end of the 3 round fight, Rose was undeniably the winner, she had complete control of the ring throughout the fight but Heather stood her ground. What I really took notice of though was the audience. These ladies weren’t the co-main event or the main event, but by the third round these female fighters had everyone on their feet clapping and cheering in a frenzy.
This girl fight was the Fight of the Night hands down and was the hot topic long after the fights were over; so much in fact that the next time I went back to Walker, Minnesota, where the previous fight had been, the question on everyone’s mind was, “Is there a girl fight tonight on the card?” and honestly, I was hoping for the same!
Let’s face it – women’s MMA has a long way to go. It’s still very new in the U.S. Its popularity started to grow in Japan with Smackgirl in 2001 and didn’t really become known in the U.S. until women like Gina Carano, Miesha Tate, and Rousey started becoming the faces of sport. However, there are a lot more to come. Is the long term success of women’s MMA debatable? Yes, absolutely. And only time will tell if these ladies can keep this sport alive but as long as they keep having ‘fights of the night’ like the one I saw at King of the Cage, these ladies will be just fine; and will only be paving the way for more talented women to share the spotlight with.
For more on Shannon’s background and other great stuff, please check out her interview with VigilanteMMA here.