Fact from Dana White's Fiction: World's Biggest Sport, Obama Can't Get a Ticket?
There's an old legend about Abraham Lincoln, considered by many to be the greatest American president.
As the story goes, Lincoln was so upright and truthful that, in the middle of one winter night after closing up the country store where he made a living prior to changing the course of human events and forever altering American history for the better, he realized that a customer from earlier in the evening had given him a few more cents in a transaction than he should have.
Lincoln allegedly walked a great distance in the middle of the night (likely in snow and uphill both ways, with the way these kinds of stores are told and retold) to give the customer the few cents that Lincoln felt he owed.
It goes without saying that UFC president Dana White does not, in fact, have the same propensity for honesty as our 16th president. That's OK. Honesty is not his job; rather, promoting fights and ensuring that people part with their hard-earned money for one or two Saturdays each month are his jobs.
But sometimes, it becomes necessary for us to take a step back and separate the truth from White's fiction, especially when he's making the mainstream media rounds and journalists don't really know any better than to accept whatever they're told.
White recently gave an interview to Bloomberg and had the following gems:
It's the fastest-growing sport in the world, and it's going to be the biggest sport in the world.
For starters, it's not the fastest-growing sport in the world. It's not even the fastest-growing sport in the United States. That honor either goes to lacrosse (which has more NCAA player additions each year than any other sport) or golf (which has more young players taking it up across the country than any other sport).
And I'd hoped we could've put this "biggest sport in the world" nonsense to bed years ago, but apparently it'll be a continuing thing for White.
Face it: No matter how much you believe in the UFC's ability to leap over barriers and unite families from Winter Park, Fla., all the way to Kazakhstan in front of the television, you still must realize that soccer (football in the rest of the world) is and will remain the largest sport in the world. And it's not even close.
We've been through it before, but let's just look at the numbers for the last World Cup in 2010: Over 3.2 billion people watched at least some form of World Cup coverage. At the time, that was nearly half the people on the entire planet.
Look at that again: Almost half of all people IN THE ENTIRE WORLD watched the World Cup.
Sure, that's the World Cup, a great uniter of people and the most popular sporting event in the world. It's not really a fair reference.
But look, those are the numbers that MMA would have to approach in order to be considered the most popular sport in the world. That's the ballpark White is putting himself in when he continues this nonsensical talk.
Fighting is a niche sport and always will be. It will never be the most popular sport in the world or the most-watched sport in America.
Rachel Crane: If the president of the United States wanted to come to your event tomorrow (UFC 159)...
Dana White: I'm not kidding you...we couldn't seat Obama. He'd have to sit on my lap.
White may not be kidding the interviewer, but he's certainly pulling her leg. Because I was at UFC 159, and there were plenty of tickets available on the day of the event. There were so many tickets available, in fact, that several of my friends working for other media outlets were given bundles of tickets to give away on Twitter.
Let's look at UFC 161 on Saturday night: As of the moment I'm writing this on Thursday morning, there are plenty of tickets available for the event in Winnipeg. It's the UFC's first time in that market, and it hasn't sold out; I was able to find two very good lower-bowl seats via Ticketmaster.
I point out all of this not to disparage the UFC. It's still a very popular and growing American sport, and it's gaining footholds around the world that should serve it well for years to come.
But there's a difference between running a profitable business and being so popular that you're bigger than soccer, or so overwhelmed with demand that you can't get tickets. The UFC will never be bigger than soccer on an international level, and there's no reason to falsely claim that your events are sold out to the extent where you couldn't even seat the current American president.
Just tell the truth: that your company has mastered the art of live event promotion, and you have successfully popularized an event based around a sport that still makes a large percentage of potential television watchers squirm in their seats.
That's a fine thing to aspire to, and it doesn't require that you sell us on this idea of cage fighting somehow ever overcoming soccer on a global level. That's never going to happen, and we're all fine with it.
I hope White is too.
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