Mexico is one of the top fighting countries in the Americas and has produced countless boxing world champions from Ricardo “El Finito” Lopez to the great Julio Cesar Chavez. You can go have a drink at a bar in Mexico and start a conversation with anyone about boxing and have a meaningful conversation.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said about MMA, as the MMA community in Mexico is minuscule, and, due to misunderstanding of the ground game, many people simply don’t care for it.
There are many factors that explain why MMA isn't as popular in Mexico as in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. When ZUFFA bought the UFC they planned on expanding into the Mexican market, and it seemed a sure thing as Mexico loves boxing.
The main factor is the lack of popularity of wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Hurtsbad MMA had the opportunity to travel to Mexico and visit many of the BJJ schools in Mexico, and, to be frank, there aren’t many.
There are only a handful of schools located in the largest cities.
Also, wrestling is not a sport widely available to young kids. Many schools don’t have the resources to have a program or they give preference to other sports such as soccer and baseball.
Wrestling and BJJ are a fundamental part of the game. Lack of exposure to grappling sports hinders people’s appreciation of the ground and confuses the willingness to go to the mat for the lack of warrior spirit. Mexican fanatics love fighters who are warriors and will stand and bang staying in the pocket with their opponents.
It is hard for a first-time Mexican viewer to stay entertained by a dominant performance like one Georges St. Pierre might put forward. Yet they may really relate to Jose Aldo knocking people out.
Mexico has to be educated in the art of ground fighting to appreciate all the fights not just the stand up wars that are rare from card to card.
Another huge factor is that Mexico has yet to produce a native son that has reached the upper ranks of the UFC or any top promotion. People may argue that fighters like Cain Velasquez, Miguel Angel Torres, Dom Cruz and Nick Diaz fit the bill, but that is simply not the case.
Even though these fighter are some of the best in their division, they are still Mexican-American fighters. Mexican fans rally unconditionally around their native born-and-raised fighters and not Mexican-Americans.
Most Mexicans would much rather see Saul “Canelo” Alvarez fight a B-level fighter than watch Cain Velasquez against a top-10 opponent—sad truth, but a truth just the same south of the border.
When it’s all said and done, the UFC will bring MMA to Mexico, but they are going to have to plan a card that will be sure to deliver stand-up wars like Barboza vs. Etim to keep the interest of the fans.
It easy to say Jon Fitch won’t be near that card.
As they formulate more events people will eventually begin to want to learn more, and schools will gain traction.
Eventually, a star will emerge and take the MMA world by storm, and what seemed to be a boxing community in Mexico will quickly turn into an MMA community. When that time comes the warrior will be a son of Mexico who will have Mexico's full support—just like Saul Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad MMA. Follow us on Twitter @HurtsBad