Belinda Dunne – Queen of POP!

Belinda DunneBy Katrina Belcher (

If the female fighters of POP are the Princesses of Pain, then Belinda Dunne is their Queen.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Belinda Dunne, director of Princesses of Pain (POP), an international women’s fight league, featuring the combative sports of MMA and Kickboxing. Located in beautiful New Zealand, POP was the first ever women’s MMA to be held in that country. Working hard, and with the support of friends and her fighters, Belinda Dunne has paved the way for the promotion of women’s fighting. Already taking New Zealand by storm, in 2008 Belinda also sponsored an all-female fight card between her team and a team of female fighters from the U.S. She now wants to continue that success and bring Women’s MMA to an International level.

TUFF: So Belinda – to educate my American readers, tell me a little bit about you and how you got started in MMA?

Belinda: Before I was promoting I was involved in boxing, kickboxing and wrestling. Although the styles are different, the one thing that was the same was the women of each fight style were not getting any fight opportunities. That is why I started promoting.

Also I didn’t start out wanting to promote MMA; in fact I was very scared to take that step. I began with wrestling events, then Mauy Thai and Pancration and finally, after hundreds of e-mails from girls asking me to do it, I decided I had learnt enough to promote MMA.

It’s not a decision I took lightly. Safety is really important to me and I needed to know how to create a safe fight event before I would take on promoting MMA. I did it because it was what the girls wanted, and the league has always belonged to the fighters. Having said that, every step I took was closely guided by several top male fighter/promoters from this area until I felt I could be safe and represent the sport well. Princesses of Pain is still a team effort and decisions are never made by me alone.

TUFF: So Princesses of Pain is your baby? Tell me about POP and how it got started, and about your efforts at taking it to a new, International level!

Belinda: Yeah Princesses of Pain is my baby; I believe so strongly in the sport and have so much pride in the dedication and loyalty the women of this league show me. I think if only the world could see the athletes and people the fighters are, they would think twice about the crazy views they hold about women who enter the ring/cage.

POP got started for the reasons above but I have always been very lucky to have strong support here. Having said that there were plenty of people who didn’t want a female promoter and who were very clear with me about how they felt both in actions and words. I like people to know it was tough to start out, but I also like them to know I had some incredible people supporting me.

I was helped by the fact that I am here in NZ.

NZ was the first country to give women the vote and until earlier this year we had a female Prime Minister (for about the last ten years.) What I am getting at is women are well-supported in my country. Also, regulations with fighting and filming are easier (than in America) so starting out isn’t as difficult as it would be in America. Add to that NZ has a reputation for being unbiased and fighters from most areas of the world are keen to compete here. Being honest and unbiased is definitely another high priority for me in the league; it needs it to be a priority if I am to create something truly international.

TUFF: Have you found it hard to find female fighters to fight in New Zealand and if so, what do you do to find good prospects?

Belinda: Not at all! I have hundreds of applications every time I hold an event. The applicants are very high in quality and come from all over the world. I really don’t have to do anything but put the word out that I am looking for fighters and they all start e-mailing me.

TUFF: Have you ever worked with just male fighters? What’s the difference between male vs. female fighters? Like can women really take more pain or? 😉

Belinda: I have worked with men but never have a I run an event which was more men then women (there are so many guys events they don’t need my help). I did some tournaments which were wrestling and were 50% men and when I started promoting MMA the first fights I held were men. I still like to have a couple of guy’s bouts every event and the guys love being there to support the girls…and hold the ring cards LOL.

TUFF: Oh – I definitely want to hear more about the Ring Boys in our next interview! But tell me more about the differences you’ve experienced between men and women fighters.

Belinda:The main difference I see with women’s bouts verses guys, is that they are more emotional and determined not to give up. All over the world women are finding it so hard to get matches that when they get them, they are not prepared for it to be over quickly. I don’t like it, but it is the way it is; women take longer to tap and fight every bout with a huge amount of heart. I admire all the guys of this sport and I’m not saying they don’t fight as hard or train as hard, I’m just saying it’s easier for them to get matches, so their fights don’t have the same sense that they must do well in THIS bout.

As for the difference with promoting women, that one is easy and hands down. The girls are very supportive; I don’t think male promoters get the hundreds of encouraging e-mails I get. Also they are really grateful for the effort I put into promoting them and do all they can to help; they really go beyond the call of duty which helps immensely when you are starting out.

TUFF: That makes sense – so basically what you’re saying is that female fighters don’t have as big a window to showcase their skills, so when they do fight, they feel they have a lot more to prove at that time. So tell me about this new promotional video you’ve put out – what is it all about?

Belinda: The video is Team America and Team Australasia lead by Lana Stefanac and Tony Green (respectively). Lana brought the “Ladies of Pain” to NZ and Tony brought together an Australasian team for a week of filming and a competition at the end of the week. All the women (and Tony) involved in this event were incredible. It was a tough schedule with filming and training. The American team couldn’t have known much about what they were getting into and I felt they were really brave to fly half way around the world to help me build this league.

There were so many stumbling blocks on the road to the ring, and at times it looked like the whole thing might fall apart, I was very lucky to have Lana and Tony help me hold it all together and all the fighters were very supportive. The footage isn’t entirely from this event and the facts are not laid out completely correctly. (For example) things like Team Red and Team Blue are actually Team America and Team Australasia. The reason for this is it’s an example of what a female fight series could look like, and although the stories are all true, some small facts have been made generic. Let me finish by saying, I was very honored and proud (almost to the point of tears) of these fighters/coach’s. Thanks everyone.

TUFF: What motivates Belinda Dunne – what makes her want to keep working at getting POP “out there” and known by the New Zealand and American audiences?

Belinda: That is again super easy to answer, the love of the sport and the constant encouragement and support I get from the women in it.

TUFF: Okay – and do you watch American MMA events, like the UFC? Any favorite U.S. male or female fighters?

Belinda: I try to but I am using every second I have to promote POP and look for new avenues for its success, so I don’t do it as much as I should. Favorite fighters Gina (Carano), Chris (“Cyborg” Santos), Lana (Stafanec) and Van (Do) — all women who fight well, but who also promote the sport in the right way. I am very grateful to them; they are doing wonders for the image of female fighters!

There are also a few guys who I think have great attitudes. For me the favorites are always the guys who fight with heart and speak with a brain……they are the ones who I want the public to identify with.

TUFF: Anything else you’d like to share with my readers or any shout outs to anyone?

Belinda: Just that the interest in our league is growing. I never get tired of hearing from fighters. The league is for the fighters, so by all means have your say. It’s a women’s league, but we do include men on our cards and love hearing from both male and female fighters. I still need help, so if you have ideas that might work for POP please let me know. Please pass on our promo video to as many people as you can.

And if you are a fighter, please consider being a representative also.

My only shout out are to ask that people look at these websites here in NZ; the people behind them helped me build POP:

Infinite MMA

New Zealand MMA

ICNZ MMA Television

Interesting interview from an incredible lady – not sure where she gets all her energy! But it’s nice to speak with a person who is enthusiastic about MMA, and especially one who has given Women’s MMA her all. To see more about Belinda Dunne, see her website Princesses of Pain.

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