From Ronda Rousey to Holly Holm to Mischa Tate and new UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, women have dominated this year's headlines in the mixed martial arts world.
But the influence of women in MMA isn’t limited to the fighting that takes place inside the octagon.
Meet Scottsdale resident Brandy Pierce, the only female MMA promoter in Arizona.
"I’m just passionate about sports, I’m passionate about just being around athletes and working in the sports industry. It’s fast-paced and it’s fun and it’s high-energy," said Pierce, co-owner and chief financial officer of World Fighting Federation, an AZ-based MMA promotion.
Pierce’s experience in medicine and competitive sports has made her a perfect fit for the mixed martial arts industry.
After she graduated from Coronado High School in Scottsdale, Pierce attended Phoenix College and later Westmont College in California, where she ran track and cross-country and became a two-time All-American.
From there, Pierce went to naturopathic medical school and practiced as a physician with pro athletes for a decade. She became co-owner of WFF in 2009.
"I actually married the business owner, the brains behind the operation," she said, "so the opportunity fell into my lap."
Opportunity knocked, but it was up to Pierce to open the door, walk through and keep WFF’s house in order – something she’s naturally suited to do.
"My experience of being an athlete and showing up on time – I’m very driven and organized – has really helped with the business, streamlining everything and all the behind-the-scenes stuff, so when we get to fight night, everything comes to fruition, it’s organized and plays out beautifully," she said.
Pierce has also put her medical background to good use in order to help WFF fighters boost and maintain their health.
"Whether a fighter wants to go to the big leagues, so to speak, or other organizations that are more worldwide, or if they just want to do it for health reasons or they want to change something in their life – whatever it is, I just want to help people make their dream come true," she said.
Pierce is vastly outnumbered by men in her industry -- and while her career path wasn't dictated by a desire to break any glass ceilings, she does take pride in her ability to hang with the boys.
"I haven’t looked at it that way," she said, "but it is pretty cool that I’m running a business in a male-dominant industry. It’s really fun and it’s exciting, and most people have no clue that a female is doing all the behind-the-scenes work. It’s awesome."
Pierce is outnumbered by men at home, too. She has two young boys – six and four years old – who occasionally visit her at work while she’s preparing for future events.
As a doctor, Pierce isn’t crazy about the idea of her sons stepping into the octagon one day, but she won’t hold them back if they decide to take that path.
"If my child wants to do (MMA), I want to give them the opportunity," she said. "It’s so far away from now. I’ll handle it when the time comes."
In the meantime, Pierce is focused on WFF’s next two events, at Casino Del Sol Resort in Tucson on July 23 and Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler on Aug. 27.
As always, the state's only female MMA promoter will be on hand to ensure those events proceed without a hitch.
She says you should be there, too -- especially if you've never attended an MMA event.
"It’s not as bloody and gory as it looks," she said. "It’s just so fun. It’s a night of entertainment. There’s a DJ. The crowd is roaring.
"I’ve talked to women who said, ‘I had the best night. I never thought I’d enjoy going to a fight, but I’ll be back.'"