In last Sunday’s New York Times, David Segal wrote on the death of Michael Jackson and the nature of his stardom:
“Fame on the level that Mr. Jackson achieved is all but impossible for pop culture heroes today, and quite likely it will never be possible again… Michael Jackson has sold an estimated 100 million copies worldwide of the 1982 album “Thriller,” which spent more than 31 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. It’s one of those high-water marks that nobody will touch, because record stores are vanishing, and along with them, megahit albums are vanishing, too… People who buy music tend these days to buy — or steal it — online, a song at time.”
Naturally, Segal’s argument got me thinking about MMA and the internet, and how well suited the sport is to take advantage of this new age of anti-stardom.
First, let’s just state the obvious. The anonymity of the internet makes it the perfect vessel for sex and violence. All people are fascinated by the carnal aspects of human experience, but most are afraid to admit it. I’m willing to bet that more people type “fighting”, or “girl-fight”, or “MMA” into a search engine than are willing to admit it.
Second, with the possible exception of certain Olympic sports - ski jumping, track and field - MMA provides viewers with the most economical (and certainly the most intense) narrative experience. Even when fights are long, say, more than 10 minutes - which wouldn’t get you out of the first inning of a baseball game - a 30 second clip, particularly a well chosen 30 second highlight reel, will provide the cliff notes, if not the entire story, of a fight.
Lastly, much of the MMA fan base is young (yes, I know that there are exceptions, but the UFC themselves goes out of their way to promote the strength of its 18-34 male audience). This generally means that they are internet savvy ensuring that there are plenty of blogs - like the one you’re reading - in which the sport is analyzed and threaded like Facebook gossip.
What does it all mean?
Well, perhaps Georges St-Pierre will never attain the stardom of Michael Jackson, but perhaps the sport of MMA can.