UFC: Has It Reached The "Top Four"? A Chase Ruttig Essay

Chase RuttigCorrespondent IJuly 13, 2009

The UFC had it's 100th PPV event on Saturday and it was the biggest event in the history of the company and was being hyped since the moment the fight card was announced till the second it went on the air.

The numbers haven't been announced yet but it may have been the biggest pay per view event in the company's history.

The UFC has came from humble beginnings on the fringe of the law and in the pay per view wasteland to the bright lights of Las Vegas and cable television.

But the question is has the UFC risen to the level of the Big Four pro North American sports. Which are the NBA, NFL, MLB, and the NHL. Well it is no question the UFC is more popular than the NHL the question is are they here to stay and are we going to have to brand it the "Big Five"

First we have to set up what makes the "Big Four" what they are, what are the reasons us sports fans spend our money and time to watch these leagues?

In my opinion there are five things these leagues have that sets them apart from the rest. They are:



If people are going to watch your events they are first going to have to know they exist. This is where coverage comes in. Analysts let the fans understand the teams strengths and weaknesses. Games are previewed and hyped before and are shown over and over again the next day on the highlight shows.

A sport can not thrive without coverage, as without the fans there are no games.


Chidhood Participation

One of the ways that fanbases develop is from people who used to or still do participate in the sport turn into fans of the sport because they know what it is like to play the game.

The Big Four Sports are in the top of the rankings for participation in youth sports which is proof of this theory.



This is an extention of the Childhood Participation. The sport gets passed down from generation to generation and is a part of a culture. The Big Four sports are ingrained in our society like religion and family customs and it is no longer entertainment it is tradition.


Mainstream Crossover

What makes the Big Four special is that they are not just popular amongst sports fans but also to the casual person. The Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, and the Stanley Cup are must watch sporting events to varying degrees and are given coverage beyond the sports pages.

Their players are just not athletes but celeberties and are some of the most marketed people in the world. They hawk everything from cars to candy bars and everything in between. For a sport to be that popular it needs the mainstream media and the casual viewer.


Highlights and Moments

Once you have all of the above your product needs to be exciting and have moments that go down in history. From David Tyree's catch to Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series all of the Big Four sports have moments that are talked about for years.

Where does the UFC stand?


The UFC is heavily covered by ESPN and the lesser sports networks and their TV deal with Spike gives them free publicity. There UFC Countdown series gives their events hype and lets their superstars become household names.

After the fights the highlights are shown on the highlight shows that are given the rights and are shown on Youtube and are talked about on the sports sites. It is no question that the UFC has a significant amount of coverage.


Childhood Participation

Mixed Martial Arts may not be Little League baseball but there are definitley kids who are in martial arts disciplines there is just not really a stage for little kids to step into an Octagon for competition due to the obvious public outcry that would be raised.

The time will come, but until then the UFC does not reach the Big Four in terms of childhood participation.



While the UFC may not have the lengthy history but it redeems itself with the fact they have had 100 pay per view events plus the Ultimate Fighter series the UFC has had many historic momnets and it is not even two decades old yet.

From the big knockouts to the mega fights and of course the legendary Ultimate Finale 1 between Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonnar, the UFC has had its history and it has evolved from a tournament to a league and sport that we know today.


Mainstream Crossover

The UFC has this one hands down. Due to the fact that their events are for the most part in Las Vegas and Las Vegas being the cleberty hotspot that it is the UFC is a top draw amongst the celebrity crowd.

Also since it is an individual sport it's fighters get pushed individualy allowing for fighters to acheive superstardom Chuck Lidell and Tito Ortiz are examples of this. The UFC is probably the most mainstream sport at the moment as every card is an event.


Highlights and Moments

UFC also passes this one. While some fights may be boring grapple fests with no real offence being mounted, nearly every fight has a couple of exchanges and a few haymaker punches and kicks in it.

Plus UFC is a fast paced product as only championship bouts last twenty five minutes so there are hardly slow paced affairs. The UFC also benifits from having multiple bouts on its cards, ensuring that there will be a couple of good fights every time.

When you look throughout the history there are too many moments to mention in just one blog. You have the Lidell-Couture trilogy, Georges St. Pierre reclaiming his title in front of his French Canadian fans and Royce Gracie's epic performance in the very first UFC event.

The UFC is filled with storylines, feuds and rivalries that can eclipse even the greatest stories in the Big Four.

Is the UFC on the level of the Big Four?

After going over my criteria for what makes the Big Four special I believe that the UFC is on the level that the Big Four sports are on.

Why? Because the UFC has the most passionate fan bases in the world, coverage in both the sports and mainstream media, history, and is an extremly entertainment friendly sport.

It may not be on the level of the MLB and NFL quite yet, but the UFC definitley is on the level of the NHL and NBA and one day could possibly be the biggest sport in North America.


Let me know what you think and follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/ChaseLists