Bourdain, the MMA-junkie wife of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, will be cageside Friday for Invicta Fighting Championships 5, the biggest all-women's MMA event in history and the subject of this week's Pitch feature story. The event is being held at the Ameristar Casino and Hotel in Kansas City.
The Pitch interviewed Bourdain, who still hopes to scratch a personal MMA fight off her bucket list, by e-mail and discussed Invicta, Cyborg and why we like to fight.
The Pitch: Which fights are you most looking forward to?
Bourdain: Honestly, this is the first time I'm looking at a card, and there's not one single bout I'm not looking forward to. I'm really curious to see Cyborg's return; I have to give big props to Fiona Muxlow for taking the fight with such a short notice.
How big of an impact has Shannon Knapp had on women's MMA?
Huge. For years I've been hoping for something like this to happen. The first event took place last year on my birthday, I couldn't have wished for a better present. She took a big chance that no one wanted to take, and it's definitely paying off. She has been putting up amazing events, and I know they'll only get better.
Why do you believe that it has taken so long for women's MMA to take off?
Because no one was there to give them a chance. A few promotions had women fighting sporadically on their cards. Invicta has been a much-needed platform for women to showcase their skills. I know many people watched the first event as a novelty, but then they realized that women not only can fight but they always bring it. Maybe the skill level of some of them is still raw, but they always seem to come ready to fight, instead of trying to collect points to win.
With the Rousey-Carmouche fight, are we finally at a point of mainstream acceptance of women's MMA?
I don't think we are at a point of mainstream acceptance of MMA in general. Professional MMA is still illegal in NY State.
How do you view the promotion of gender and sexuality in MMA?
I wish we'll get to a point where we'll drop the W and we'll just talk about MMA. If some fighters want to use their sexuality in MMA, it's their prerogative. Men and women do it in other sports. Nobody's judging David Beckham and his Calvin Klein. At least I don't.
What did you think of the Rousey-Carmouche fight?
It was everything I was hoping for. It wasn't such an easy win for Ronda this time. Carmouche put up a good fight. No one wants to see Ronda keep arm-barring opponents in 10 seconds; after a while it gets old. The fact that Carmouche managed to put Ronda in an uncomfortable situation makes me look forward to her next fight, because maybe Ronda's win is not such an obvious thing anymore.
How far are we from equality in MMA? Why?
I know there are incredible jiu-jitsu practitioners and Muay Thai fighters, and Judoka and wrestlers out there who maybe were never motivated to cross train in other disciplines because there wasn't much of a future for a woman as an MMA fighter. Training as a professional fighter is no joke. It's hours and hours of commitment each week. No one can train at such a high level just for the glory. But now it's different. We have Invicta, we have women in the UFC, there is motivation. It might take a few years, but it'll get there.
What's it mean that Cyborg is now fighting in Invicta?
I still don't quite understand this deal; she could have been signed to the UFC and still would have fought for Invicta, so I guess you have to ask Tito Ortiz.
You're a fighter yourself. Why do women want to fight?
I'm really not a fighter, I have a few years of kickboxing behind me, but these days I'm a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner who sometimes enjoys a good MMA sparring session. Women want to fight for the same reasons men want to fight. It's in our DNA; we all do it as kids. Fighting is universal. I was at a Q&A with Dana White, and he explained this perfectly. He believes that fighting was the first sport on earth. Before a guy had a ball with a stick, before a guy threw a ball through a circle, a guy punched another guy and whoever was standing around ran over and fucking watched it. As long as there are human beings on the planet, people will be fighting, and other people will dig it.