Not surprisingly, similarities abound when it comes to the promotion of male and female fighters. There remain, however, distinct differences. For example, when Strikeforce CEO and founder
Fortunately for both his heart and promotional company, it turned out
"She scared the crap out of me," Coker relayed an hour after Santos pummeled
With women headlining a major mixed martial arts event and a Showtime-televised card for the first time, a milestone in female combat sports history, Coker could ill afford for anything to happen to Santos or Carano. While three testosterone-fueled championship fights had fallen apart over the past eight weeks, both women dutifully fulfilled their end of the promotional bargain. More important for 13,524 raucous fans on hand in San Jose, Calif.'s HP Pavilion, the pair showed up to fight -- a testament to Coker's faith in the drawing power and entertainment value of women mixed martial artists.
Well, at least one of them.
The oft-described face of female MMA, Carano was everywhere in the lead-in to Saturday. She owned the record, recognition, exposure and intangibles. In Coker's case, for as passionately as his company got behind Carano-Santos, most of its success was rooted in 18 months worth of hyped, ready-to-sell material.
"We were lucky," he said. "We were the beneficiary of CBS and Showtime teeing that fight up. I wanted to see that fight even when ProElite was going to do it. So when fights happen like that, it's great.
"Now we gotta go in and build some matchups, make them relevant and put 'em together."
In other words, the hard part.
Carano was the star walking into the cage. She received overwhelming support from virtually the entire arena, as well as a slew of fans around the country.
Cyborg? Well she brought viciousness and aggression.
It was a back-and-forth clash until Cyborg (8-1) found herself on top of Carano wailing away with lefts and rights. When referee
Santos, 24, needs fans to embrace her wild gun-slinging style, a staple of the academy out of which she trains, if she's going to be any kind of draw. For years, Chute Boxe, one of the most respected gyms in Brazil, churned out exciting champions like
"She's very happy doing what she's doing right now," said Chute Boxe founder
In Strikeforce, Cyborg has a willing promotional partner. And since the UFC declines to promote women based on the declaration that there's not enough depth among female competitors to round out divisions, Coker's group has an opportunity to corner the market on one, albeit niche, area of the sport. Whether fans care enough in the long run is a worthwhile question. To that end, a concerted effort is under way to bolster Strikeforce's female ranks. And highlighting Cyborg's tremendous physicality will be key.
"When I think of Cristiane Cyborg I think of an athlete where you could see her in
With Showtime's blessing, Strikeforce will promote eight-woman tournaments at 135 and 145 pounds with the idea that winners earn title shots. Established talent such as The Netherlands'
"For women in MMA, it was a perfect night," Coenen (16-3) said. "I gave a lot up so I could keep on training. Now, finally, after 10 years everything is coming together. I hope it really happens and we don't stop. MMA is growing so much in America."
Buzz from Santos' stoppage of Carano was strong enough to rank "Gina Carano," "Cris Cyborg," "MMA," and "Strikeforce" among Twitter's 10 Trending Topics in the hours after the fight. That news brought a smile to Coker's face.
"It's a historic night for us, for Showtime, for female fighting period," he said.
For young women "there's a future in this sport," said