5 Reasons Why MMA is the Fastest Growing Sport in the World
By Reisha Jems
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is the fastest growing sport in the world. In a Forbes article on MMA’s rise to prominence, sportswriter James Ayles argues that the sport’s popularity is now at an all-time high. It is even building a large fan base in Europe, thanks in part to Bellator’s recent aggressive marketing campaigns and television deals. The company is bringing high-level MMA across the Atlantic and is cornering markets there. But the sport’s gold standard continues to be the UFC, which regularly holds sold-out shows all around the world.
The UFC’s unofficial home is Las Vegas, NV and this is where the biggest events take place. A feature by Coral on why Las Vegas continues to be the home of combat sports outlines that UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena this December will “sell out the 18,000-person capacity venue.” This underscores MMA’s popularity, which keeps on growing every year and can be compared to the audience figures that boxing gets. The question is, why is MMA the world’s fastest-growing sport in the world?
1. The promotions have stepped up
The UFC put MMA on the professional sports map. It was established in 1993, and has since then become the top brand in MMA. It has many of the best fighters, and it puts on the biggest shows. Crucially the UFC has been aggressive — and creative — in promoting its brand of MMA. From launching The Ultimate Fighter to establishing UFC gyms worldwide, the promotion has always come up with new ways to win over fans. The UFC, naturally, has inspired its competition, and it has been a boon for MMA. Promotions like Bellator, Brave (in the Middle East), and ONE (in Asia) have all taken a page out of the UFC’s playbook to promote their respective brands. In doing so they are bringing the sport to a wider audience.
2. The sport has been legitimized
When MMA — through the UFC — first got a taste of the mainstream, it was deemed too violent. It had only three rules: no biting, no eye gouging, no groin strikes (the same three rules of the Greek sport Pankration). This meant MMA was initially banned by 36 U.S. states. This led to the UFC institutionalizing a myriad of rules, including the introduction of the now standard five-minute rounds. Nowadays, MMA has a set of strict rules and regulations. These legitimized MMA as a sport and could lead to it even becoming recognized as an Olympic event.
3. MMA has colorful personalities
In an op-ed by The Conversation about the rise of ultimate fighting, they note how MMA, much like boxing, “promotes the cult of personality.” And the sport has had its fair share of personalities. In fact, some of the most colorful personalities in the world of sports are MMA fighters. Conor McGregor immediately comes to mind, along with Nate Diaz and Colby Covington. Years ago, MMA leaned on the star power of such fighters as Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Anderson Silva, and Quinton Jackson. This cult of personality makes MMA compelling and appealing to fans around the world.
4. Fans get the fights they want (mostly)
Fans want to see the best fighting the best. Most of the time MMA delivers in this regard. Chuck Liddell fought Tito Ortiz, McGregor fought Diaz, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier squared off twice, and Cyborg and Amanda Nunes had a super fight. In other words, the UFC and other promotions regularly give fans the fights they want. In boxing, big fights often have too many moving parts or take a long time to get agreed. This can lead to frustration amongst fans of the sport who want to see the biggest names clash.
5.MMA is unpredictable
A couple of years ago, McGregor was steamrolling through the UFC. But at UFC 196 he was submitted by Nate Diaz, who took the fight on a week’s notice. Diaz’s shock win, as pointed out by MMA analyst James Edwards, symbolizes why MMA is the world’s fastest growing sport. It is “as real as it gets,” and is unpredictable. Once the fight starts anything can happen. This is true now, more than ever, given how technology is helping MMA fighters improve. Innovations like tracking technology are enhancing MMA training, and are helping make better, more conditioned athletes. Therefore, there is always an air of unpredictability in every fight. This adds appeal to an already exciting sport.
About The Author:
Reisha Jems is a sports fan and writer. Her main area of interest is MMA and she has been following the sport closely for her entire writing career. She is particularly interested in how the sport has grown to become a worldwide phenomenon. When she isn’t writing she can be found sparring in the boxing ring.