A Woman’s Game, Too

By Tommy Messano Jul 23, 2008
As mixed martial arts continues to evolve, the role of women will likely grow along with the sport. Houston-based Xp3 Promotions has broken new ground as the first MMA fight promotion led by an all-female brain trust. The company’s debut event takes place Saturday inside the University of Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion.

If an uninformed observer caught a glimpse of Paige “Posh” Caplan at an MMA show, he or she might mistake the 5-foot-7 buxom blonde as one of the ring card girls. Caplan, the president and CEO of Xp3, loves nothing more than to prove such assumptions wrong. Before acquiring her promoter’s license, she spent the two years living in Bettendorf, Iowa, the epicenter of Midwestern MMA and home of the famed Miletich Fighting Systems camp.

“I was the only girl allowed in what they called the fighters’ lair,” Caplan said. “I lived up there for almost two years, and there was a bunch of broke fighters. This was a few years ago, and most of them weren’t sponsored out. Xp3 started out as Xp3 Sponsorship Network.”

Xp3 Executive Vice President Carol Singletary, a brunette who easily could pass for Hollywood diva, serves as Caplan’s right-hand woman. A single mother and owner of her own mortgage company, Singletary brings an aura of confidence, as well as business savvy, to the team.

“‘Posh’ and I have been friends for almost 20 years now,” Singletary said. “When she started telling me about her dream and vision, she came to me asking for help with certain business matters of Xp3. I’m a natural sports fan and a football addict, so when she approached me with it, I was on board ready to do it.”

The rest of the building blocks for Xp3 came together over the past six months, as the promotion named Tricia Littell as the chief networking officer, Jessica Demarr as the director of marketing and Jackie Austin as the promotions manager.

To this point in its history, everything about MMA has screamed testosterone, from the loud heavy metal music that accompanied fighter entrances and highlight videos to the scantily clad woman patrolling the ring between rounds. MMA promotions big and small cater to the whims of the 18- to 35-year-old male marketing demographic.

With female MMA fighters just starting to make inroads stateside, is there room in a male-dominated sport for a group of attractive women in the highest positions of power? Caplan and Singletary think so.

“In all honesty, women simply work harder,” Singletary said. “What is really funny about our team is all but two members are single mothers. Our mentality has always been you have to make it happen because nobody is going to give it to us. I think also women have great intuition, and we use that to our advantage in many ways.”

Breaking into the all-boys MMA club has not come without its challenges.

“I find when we walk into a room, especially with some of the local promoters, we are highly underestimated.” Caplan said. “Because of this, they are a little more apt to share knowledge, a little more likely to do us some favors. On the other token, they’re also not giving [us] the credibility we deserve, so there are times when we have to work harder to get it.”

Members of Xp3 Promotions are oftentimes met by strange looks and off-color remarks when they step into a local gym.

“How many fighters do you know that call the promoter and say, ‘What do you have on right now?’” Caplan asked with a laugh in tow. “That’s an obstacle for a woman. I mean what do you want me to have on right now? I need your medicals, so get them in. It’s kind of a little bit of circus but in a good way.”

Caplan’s connections from her days in Iowa have reduced the shock factor for many of her business associates, and Singletary said the group has been met by a “mostly a positive reception.” Equity within Xp3 Promotions comes from a combination of sponsorships and private investors.

“In addition to our own income, we absolutely went out seeking investors,” Singletary said. “We did sponsorships, with the whole goal [of] sponsoring out the entire event. We did go out seeking an investor, and it’s a private investor who is actively involved in boxing.”

The group outlined a plan to promote at least four more shows in the next 10 to 12 months. Just days before the opening bell of their debut fight card -- which features UFC veterans Shonie Carter (Pictures), Mark Kerr (Pictures) and Ricco Rodriguez (Pictures) -- the women who comprise Xp3 Promotions can almost breathe a sigh of relief.

Caplan has no reservations about being a trailblazer for prospective female MMA promoters. She realizes her leap could provide women agents, event coordinators and others hoping to break the gender barrier with a road map to follow.

“I probably would have never had the guts to go through with this if I hadn’t made a lot of connections along the way,” Caplan said. “Pat Miletich (Pictures) [and Adrenaline MMA president] Monte Cox have been so supportive. We just have so many friends in the business. I’m not sure it would have been that way if we had not known anyone.”
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