As MMA has gathered momentum in the sporting stratosphere, so has its popularity among the celebrities, who have begun to appreciate an art where a variety of disciplines are entwined to produce artistic beauty and brutality in equal measures.
At present, MMA is fast following in the footsteps of boxing, which once held sway over the "must be seen at a sporting event" culture. And as such, stars from almost any vocation are more or less keen to be affiliated with it.
Some grace the events with their presence for a number of reasons, while others are content just to be practitioners of the sport. However, there are a few celebrities that are its biggest fans.
Here they are.
The West Coast rapper and former Crip member, it seems, has a serious penchant for Franklin faces, and to boot is gradually becoming a fan of MMA.
First, Snoop was paid $20,000 after the company’s head honcho, Dana White, lost a bet when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Celtics.
Secondly, Snoop Dog was kindly asked by White and the Fertitta brothers to perform at Zuffa’s 2011 Christmas party.
Oh! And he seems to like hanging out with Chael Sonnen’s arch-nemesis, whoever they may be.
As well as being a film star (Above the Law, Under Siege and Exit Wounds), Steven Seagal is an accomplished mixed martial artist, and has a seventh-degree black belt in Aikido.
In regard to professional MMA, Seagal is most noted for his affiliation with UFC middleweight titlist Anderson Silva, for whom he co-trained for his championship-winning bout against Vitor Belfort.
He was also given credit by former 205-pound titlist Lyoto Machida for perfecting the crane kick that knocked out Randy Couture at UFC 129.
Jason Statham, the star of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the Transporter franchise, has a background in Wing Chun Kung fu, Karate and Kickboxing, skills which he’s used to further his career in action movies.
David Spade—actor, comedian, television presenter and current star of the sitcom Rules of Engagement, is an avid fan of MMA and can be seen in attendance at most events staged by the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Just to show you how much of a bleeding-heart fan he is of the sport, Spade actually sneaked in a miniature bottle of Jack Daniels while watching the UFC 104 event.
The 31-year-old heiress and socialite is something of an MMA enthusiast. At UFC 57, Paris Hilton got so excited about the matches on display (or is that fighters on display) that she actually fell out of her dress (well, something did).
Isn’t that Frank Shamrock in the background?
Jaime Pressly was once a fervent advocate of the sweet science.
However, the actress soon changed her allegiance to the sport of MMA, because according to her, “boxing kind of got a little boring.”
She also likes the fact it incorporates various facets of mixed martial arts.
“You got to be able to box, jiu-jitsu," she once said. "It's wrestling, it's on the ground.”
Pressly is such a fan of MMA that a day before Super Bowl XLV (Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers), she was at the UFC 126 event in Las Vegas, watching Anderson Silva do a number on Vitor Belfort.
The former “Baddest Man on the Planet” is one of MMA’s most ardent supporters and does his best to promote the sport.
Mike Tyson, who has appeared at various UFC events, even helped enhance the viewing figures for Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter reality television series when he appeared on the show.
Tyson has also had one-on-one chats with Dana White regarding the sport of mixed martial arts.
Nevertheless, the legendary pugilist has no intentions of ever stepping inside a steel cage for fear of getting his toes stomped upon.
What a wimp!!!
Before making it big in the movie business, Michael Clarke Duncan worked as bodyguard for stars such as Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.
Besides being a frequent attendee at MMA events, particularly the UFC, Duncan is allegedly a BJJ practitioner as well as having some muay Thai expertise.
That said, the 6’5” hulk of a man said he’d be willing to throw down with anyone in the Octagon, just as long as there was a ker-ching at the end of it.
Shaquille O’Neal is by far one of, if not the biggest celebrity fan of MMA.
The former NBA legend is a mainstay at numerous UFC events.
In addition, Shaq’s superstar status has proven to be a goldmine for MMA, more importantly for the UFC, with regards to his marketability.
Furthermore, Shaq has trained in mixed martial arts since 2000—boxing, wrestling, kickboxing and jiu-jitsu.
For additional information, follow Nedu Obi on Twitter.