Has the UFC Made the Sport of MMA into Sports Entertainment?
Mixed martial arts is one part sport, and one part sports entertainment.
Yes, people tune in to watch the world's greatest fighters compete, but they also tune in for excitement, for thrills and chills, twists and turns and more "brawling" than you can shake a TapouT shirt at.
There is a fine line between sport and sports entertainment and the UFC walks right on it, sometimes veering to one side or the other.
In the case of men like Dan Hardy, they veer towards sports entertainment. Hardy has lost four straight in the UFC and is only .500 in the organization, yet he's still employed with them.
The reason why? Hardy was exciting and was a fighter who liked to "stand and bang" with the opponent. Or, as UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta put it in a tweet, "I like guys that WAR!!!"
If the UFC was purely about sports, Hardy would've been long gone after losing four straight.
But the fact of the matter is that the UFC is a business and it needs to make money to survive. They couldn't do well financially by just playing to the sport aspect because not all the fans appreciate the intricacies of MMA.
This is where men like Jon Fitch come in. Fitch is the cosmic opposite of Hardy. Hardy is an exciting striker, but loses more often than Fitch, who is an allegedly boring wrestler, but wins more often than Hardy.
Fitch's style has cost him fans and cost him promotion. He grinds down on his opponents in a masterful display of wrestling's true power in the Octagon, but fans don't appreciate that. It's sport at its finest, but many don't consider it entertainment and they won't separate from their cash to see it.
Because the fans don't want to see him, the UFC doesn't want to see him do well; they know he'll kill ratings and pay-per-view buys.
As much as people want to malign the shunning of fighters like Fitch and the promotion of "bangers" like Hardy, the basic truth that the majority of people tune in to be entertained cannot be denied.
The UFC has to be part sports entertainment or it can't succeed. It has to appeal to the lowest common denominator—the casual fan. And if that means not firing Hardy after four straight losses or shoving Leonard Garcia down our throats so that the finest sport in the world can grow more popular, then so be it.
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