Can an Individual Sport Such as MMA Ever Be More Popular Than a Team Sport?
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Dana White is hellbent on the UFC becoming the biggest sports organization in the world. Bigger than the NFL, NHL, MLB and the NBA. Even more popular than UEFA (soccer) in Europe.
There is one major reason why the UFC will never become more popular than the organizations listed above, and that's because MMA is not a team sport.
Sure, one can say MMA is a team sport due to the coaching and training partners, but when it comes time to perform there is only one person who can determine the outcome and that is the fighter himself. Well, at times it appears the fighters are competing against the judges scoring the fight instead of their opponents but that needs an entirely separate column on its own.
Team sports bring in the most fans. More importantly they capture the fans for longer periods of time. For example, many UFC fans responsible for helping bring the sport to the mainstream followed the sport because they enjoyed watching Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz. Liddell and Couture are gone and Ortiz is wrapping up his career next month. Who do those fans latch onto now?
Team sports have franchises. That is something MMA doesn't have. The closest thing we saw to that was the International Fight League which had teams such as the San Jose Razorclaws, Toronto Dragons and the Tucson Scorpions.
Even then, with teams, fans weren't walking around bragging about San Jose beating up on Toronto the night before. Would something like that work with the UFC today? Probably not.
Team sports promote fan loyalty. Unless you're talking about the fans of The Diaz Brothers, you aren't going to find too many MMA fans walking around talking trash about Jon Jones being the greatest of all-time while showing you his "Bones Jones" tattoo he got after he won the championship for the first time.
People gather in bars to watch good fights. For an NFL game you'll see grown men cry their eyes out if their beloved New England Patriots lose to the New York Giants. For the UFC fights, people talk about who they want to win, but more often than not they "just want to see a good fight."
Fans of the major professional sports don't tune in to the game just to see a good game. Do you think fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder or Miami Heat are watching the NBA Finals just hoping for a good game? No, they are living and breathing every made shot and turnover that happens in the game.
Franchises carry on from year to year, generation to generation. Parents put their babies in Matt Kemp and Tom Brady jerseys. Most importantly, players come and go but the teams will always be there. Well, unless they move away from you as the Rams did to me.
This is not to say MMA fans aren't passionate, lord knows the writers here at Bleacher Report understand your passion. Especially if we predict one of your favorite fighters to lose in an upcoming event.
MMA, however, doesn't have a season of ups and downs for fans to follow. There are no playoffs, no championship parades or discussions amongst fans about how horrible the general manager is. There is no trade deadline, stadium giveaways or team merchandise that fans will proudly wear on a Friday night.
In fact, UFC fans are consistently ridiculed by other fans for wearing Tapout shirts. If a UFC fan wears a MMA shirt then they are immediately casted as a poser if they don't train MMA themselves.
There is a lot holding the UFC back from being considered the most popular professional sports organization in the world. Sports fans love their franchises. They want to see their cities represented, and they come together to support their team.
MMA can't do that. Not now, not ever.
Joe Chacon is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a Staff Writer for Operation Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeChacon.
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