Imagine it's Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and the local electronics store is having a hard-to-believe sale. High-end HDTVs are 50 percent off. Cameras, tablets and portable music players are marked down even more.
Inventory, though, is limited, and the sale lasts only as long as the supply. In addition, there is only one way in, which also happens to be the only way out.
It's going to cause a stampede.
And that, in some ways, is what happened to the all-women's Invicta Fighting Championship for its live stream pay-per-view show in January. Tens of thousands – indeed, hundreds of thousands – of people hit the system at the same time, trying to pay the $7.95 to watch the fight card.
More than 250,000 people essentially tried to squeeze their way in at the same time and the pay system collapsed. IFC president Shannon Knapp made the decision to take down the pay wall and refund the money of those who had paid.
Refunding money is never what a business wants to do, but as far as problems go, this was a good one to have. It was evidence of amazingly high demand for the product.
Invicta will try it again Friday night, this time with a $9.95 price tag, for a deep card filled with exceptional talent and some recognizable names.
I suppose there are better ways to spend $10 bucks – making a charitable donation, or using it to buy a homeless person something to eat – but from an entertainment standpoint, Invicta is probably the best value on the MMA market.
The card, which will be held in Kansas City, features Jessica Penne defending her atomweight title against Michelle Waterson and Barb Honchak facing Vanessa Porto for the inaugural flyweight championship.
Also on the card is Cris "Cyborg" Santos, unquestionably the most famous female fighter outside the UFC and a woman who, not that long ago, was regarded as far and away the best in the world.
In addition, the card includes recognizable names and elite talents like Sarah Kaufman, Zoila Gurgel, Kaitlin Young, Julia Budd and Bec Hyatt.
That Invicta came back for a second show after its debut show on April 28, 2012, is remarkable. Promoting mixed martial arts fight cards is extraordinarily difficult and the failure rate is exceptionally high.
Invicta, though, not only pulled off four successful shows, it's drawn more than a few of the UFC fight cards on Fuel have done. Given the marketing power and brand recognition of the UFC and the commitment made to it by Fuel, for tiny, upstart Invicta to have even come close to matching it in viewers – let alone surpassing it – is a feat worthy of the textbooks for the Wharton School.
While it's shocking on some levels to draw so many fans, from another viewpoint, it's not that surprising: For fight fans, Invicta delivers every penny of value for the $9.95 fee it asks.
"We're putting on an amazing product and the athletes are competing at the highest level that they can," Knapp said. "And, they're giving everything they can when they get in there."
If there is anything that it is true about women MMA fighters, it is that across the board, they compete extremely hard. Whether it's the world-class fighters like Santos, Kaufman, Penne or Marloes Coenen, or newcomers giving it a shot, the women routinely fight with a passion and a fury that not all men do.
Prior to the Ronda Rousey-Liz Carmouche title bout at UFC 156, scores of male UFC fighters noted that the women's fights are often the best on the card.
Rousey and Carmouche put on a great show in February, and they drew an exceptional pay-per-view number, so perhaps it's not all that surprising that Invicta has found success.
Knapp said that the 18-to-34-year-old male, the standard MMA demographic, supports her company, but she said it goes beyond that.
"We have a ton of fans who don't even watch men," Knapp said. "They just like watching women. It's crazy. That old school mindset, they're changing their minds every day about all kinds of things. Our demographic is all over the board. We're getting the mature male, mature females, young, young females; it's all over."
The live stream begins at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, and Knapp is confident that the servers will handle the demand this time around.
She's actually charging $2 more for Invicta 5 than she did for Invicta 4, when the price was $7.95. That's the cost of bringing in a fighter like Santos, who doesn't come cheaply. But while Knapp wouldn't say it, it's also a sign of confidence in her fan base.
She's clearly not worried that a 20 percent price increase will scare away her fan base.
And if it does, well, one thing is for sure: Those who walked away weren't fight fans. If Invicta has proven anything in its first four shows it's that it will put on a series of amazing fights.
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