UFC: Why the Casual Fan Is Both a Bane and a Blessing

Matt SaccaroContributor IIIFebruary 26, 2012

We've all seen them. They wear TapouT or Affliction shirts, "watch UFC," only know the big name fighters and get bored when fights go to the ground.

There are reasons why these people (the much-maligned "casual fans", as they are called) are worthy of reproach, and there are reasons why they should be treated like kings.

They are reprehensible because they don't have a true understanding of the sport; they don't enjoy it on as many levels as "hardcore" fans do. That is to say that a casual fan watches just to see violence while a hardcore fan watches to see the human chess match that is mixed martial arts. 

This propensity toward seeking violence is perhaps why the casual fan is such a problem. They only want to see action, they only want to see a brawl. And they sure are vocal about it. 

Go to a bar showing a UFC event and you'll be able to pick out the casual fans by how they act and what they say. 

It's also possible that casual fans only watch the UFC and wear MMA "lifestyle" brands to elevate their own sense of self-esteem or perceived societal standing; wearing a standard T-shirt doesn't convey the same message as wearing a $60 shirt with ornate depictions of skulls, wings, and other manly symbols.

However, the casual fan, for all his lack of knowledge, has one important thing: Money.

The money of the casual fans isn't something that can be ignored.

Look at the growth of the UFC and MMA after the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter". The show created the casual fan (as well as an insult on MMA forums, TUF noobs, as people who came to MMA from The Ultimate Fighter were pejoratively known as, or sometimes TUFers), and in doing so created a societal niche for the UFC that didn't previously exist. 

The UFC now had a presence in culture, thanks to the casual fan who wasn't "loyal" to the sport and didn't painstakingly hunt for Pride video tapes or watch UFC 1. This created resentment in MMA fandom that still exists until this day.

For example, some MMA forums judge your worth by your join date. The earlier your join date, the more respected you are since you have been a verifiable MMA fan for longer. While a more recent join date is seen as a bad thing. "The Underground" even uses it as an insult, insulting some posters by calling them an "11er" or a "10er"

The vast division between the casual and hardcore fan is a product of the UFC and MMA's unique upbringing. While MMA and the UFC were growing up, so too was the Internet. Thus, "hardcore" fans had places to congregate en masse and these places were eventually "ruined" by the hordes of casual fans. 

While casual fans may annoy the hardcore fans and sometimes matchmaking might be tailored towards the casual fan, the casual fan is the foundation on which the current expansion of the UFC is built. 

The casual fan may not train, may not know that much about MMA, and may be bored by the ground game but their money is still good, and money makes the sport go 'round. Fighters can get paid more and the UFC can have insurance because there are now legions of casual fans ready to part with their cash upon hearing "GSP" (or formerly "Lesnar" but he's now retired).

The hardcore fans may have kept the sport alive in the dark ages but it's thanks to the casual fan that the sport will enter a golden age.