20 years may seem like a long time, but compared to the other major sports organizations, it’s considerably short in length. Back in 1993—when the first UFC event occurred, under the SEG banner—it was promoted as no holds barred, having no rules, being dangerous and in some instances risking death. Those monikers and that reputation is still to this day a detriment to the sports growth.
Many a story will often resort to sensationalism or ill-educated opinions on the sport. Sure the MMA media and hardcore fans know they are far from the truth, but the non-fans and laymen don't. They latch on to these incorrect descriptions and ignorant statements, believing them as gospel.
A perfect example of this is a recent article in the NY Post by Michael Bongiorno titled “Too Brutal for NY.”
“How can we teach our children that gratuitous violence has no place in society,” Bongiorno wrote, stating his case for why New York State should not legalize MMA. “When every day they are bombarded with violence — with the most brutal contestants lauded as victors and heroes? Bongiorno came to this conclusion "In the 30 seconds I watched," he said.
Not only do these types of statements hurt the case for MMA in NY, they hurt the sport period. Think of how many people read the NY Post, and how many people may think—after reading that article—that MMA is in fact a brutal and horrible sport that is a bad influence on children. That is only one article!
Another gaffe by the mainstream media is referring to MMA as UFC. A couple weeks ago the hilarious clip of longtime MMA announcer Michael Schiavello’s pronunciation of Resurrection Fighting Alliance fighter Danny Mainus, made its way to The Jimmy Fallon Show on NBC. It was awesome to see MMA talked about on late-night network TV, but Fallon’s intro showed a still very common and prominent misnomer.
How long do you think it will take for MMA to lose the stereotypes attached to it?
“During a recent UFC fight,” Fallon said, mistaking the RFA for being the UFC. “We always have those guys on, we’re big fans.”
The good part about this problem is that it's not an attack on MMA, it’s just confusion about the sport and number of promotions there are. The bad part is that the UFC gets the mention and the RFA does not.
Credit must be given to the UFC for building brand name recognition that is comparable to what Kleenex has become for tissues or any other brand that has become synonymous with a household product. The UFC is the most recognized, popular and successful.
Other organizations like Bellator and the World Series of Fighting have their work cut out for them if they want to keep this mistake from reoccurring.
What the mainstream media needs most is to be educated about the sport, especially before they cite facts that aren't true. Too many times certain writers jump the gun with their bias and it comes off like a film critic who always gives horror movies a bad review. If they did their homework and learned of what they were writing or talking about (journalistic integrity), it will only be more beneficial to them and to those that are unfamiliar to the sport, instead of spreading the misconception of bloody battles where lives are in danger.
Now as far as non-fans go, as per usual I must further educate my family members on the sport. My older sister is still amazed that the UFC has enough money to fly their fighters to Japan. 20 years is still just a short period of time.