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Mixed Martial Arts Courts More Female Fans

After domestic violence incidents involving UFC fighters, the sport tries to woo more women

Photograph by Genevieve Ross/Sacramento Bee/Zumapress/Alamy

For much of the past decade, mixed martial arts—the combination of cage-match grappling, chokeholds, and knee blows to the head that’s given new meaning to the phrase “contact sport”—was on a tear. Recently, however, its television ratings have sagged, and pay-per-view revenue has declined. Now, once-booming MMA is targeting an unlikely source of growth: women. The female-friendly pitch comes as the testosterone-fueled sport tries to shed a reputation as a haven for misogynistic behavior. Three brutal domestic violence incidents this year involving male MMA fighters have reinforced the sport’s bad boy image and threaten to make any appeal to women a tough sell.