Roni Taylor is, if nothing else, self-aware. Spawning something called the Lingerie Fighting Championships is going to generate questions, if not controversy. The organization’s president understands she has to have thick skin.
"Is this going to be something the female MMA professionals are going to like?" Taylor told FOX Sports. "No. They’re probably going to hate my guts."
The LFC, Taylor explains, is part UFC, part WWE. What does that mean exactly? Well, Taylor said the object is to entertain and the back-stories of the "fighters" are exaggerated. However, the matches are not pre-determined and the scantily clad women are actually fighting, even though they are not trying to knock one another out as if it were an MMA match. The majority of LFC bouts take place on the ground.
"Think of it like the Pro Bowl," said Taylor, using the NFL’s all-star game as an example. "You’ve got the players out there, but they’re not out there to hurt. They’re out there to entertain."
Lingerie Fighting Championship, which bills itself as "MMA’s most controversial league" on its website, has been around for a year now. It will make its pay-per-view debut April 11 (9 p.m. ET). The bouts are filmed beforehand, but will air on that date. The LFC has yet to run a live show and is not bound by the constraints of any athletic commission like MMA or boxing, Taylor said.
Just taking a look at videos from past events, it’s clear this is not mixed martial arts. It’s a weird gray area meant to titillate. Taylor isn’t squeamish about explaining why the LFC exists — it’s for guys to gawk at athletic women rolling around on the ground. It’s like a semi-real catfight in a cage. Almost like mud wrestling at a local dive bar with a little more glitz and glamour.
"Guys watch UFC and they like the idea that there’s women in the UFC, but they cant be like, ‘That’s so hot, because it’s not PC,’" Taylor said. "And most of the girls aren’t hot anyway."
The idea for this came in 2013 when Taylor, an MMA fan, analyst and Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, was at a regional MMA show. The two ring girls got into a physical altercation, Taylor said, and the crowd was more into that than whatever was going on in the cage.
"I said, ‘You know, that’s interesting,’" Taylor said. "We took the idea and ran with it."
The Las Vegas native understands LFC is going to rub people the wrong way. But she doesn’t see a huge difference between what she’s doing and how women’s MMA is promoted. Taylor said that UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is "already objectified" because of photo shoots she has done, like the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue in which she appeared artistically naked.
LFC president Roni Taylor says that women’s MMA is already objectified, so she has taken it to the next level.
"Why do they want Gina Carano to fight Ronda Rousey?" Taylor said. "Because Gina has a chance? She doesn’t. But why are people looking forward to it? Why would [UFC president] Dana [White] let it go? Because it’s sexy."
Taylor said every girl in the organization has an athletic background and she helps train them in actual MMA. Shaun Donnelly, the LFC’s creator and executive producer, takes care of the production side of things. Taylor said there’s a demand for DVDs of past events and LFC plans on making money on its first foray into pay-per-view.
"Girls are wearing everything from bikinis to lingerie to corsets," Taylor said. "Are we showing more than any other girl that’s fighting [in MMA]? No, it’s just a different outfit."
So far, Taylor said, there hasn’t been much backlash. But she suspects it could be coming as LFC gets more successful. Call it a pro wrestling/MMA hybrid or watered-down softcore porn, Taylor doesn’t care. She believes there’s a market for it.
"[The women] do have skills and they do fight," she said. "Just like WWE, they’re entertainment. There’s entertainment value. We’ll just leave it at that."