MMA Extends a Hand (and Fist) To Fans of All Kinds

E. Spencer KyteSenior Analyst IAugust 26, 2009

With Mixed Martial Arts' rise to the brink of the mainstream, fans have been flocking to the sport in droves.

Many have been around from the beginning, while some are returning fans, those who became interested in the days of Royce Gracie but couldn't keep up when the sport went underground and overseas.

Perhaps there are boxing converts, looking to fill their combat sports craving with a more complete sport where the judging is still occasionally suspect.

Others still are brand new, knowing only the main event fighters and Dana White, believing that UFC and MMA are synonyms.

Regardless of where they fall, there is room for all of them in the MMA audience.

Whether you're an expert with an encyclopedic knowledge of thousands of fighters and organizations around the globe or a Dana White sycophant who believes nothing exists outside of the UFC bubble, it doesn't matter; all fans are welcomed, and anyone who thinks differently is ill-informed.

Are there different levels of fans? Absolutely.

Just as they exist in every other sport, MMA has a mix. There are hardcore addicts who watch fights on YouTube, scour the Sherdog database, and can rattle off the last 10 opponents Fedor Emelianenko has faced without blinking, and those who simply like watching two gladiators battle it out inside the cage regardless of knowing their names and histories.

Is one type of fan superior to another? Absolutely not.

While some have been on the bandwagon from the very beginning, that doesn't mean that the people getting on board now are any less worthy of being fans or their opinions are somehow any less valid.

Though you might know that Dana White didn't create the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and there are hundreds of highly skilled competitors fighting outside the Octagon, those who feel otherwise don't deserve to be ostracized for being uninformed.

Right now, Mixed Martial Arts is like grunge in the early '90s.

Even though the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam seemingly appeared out of nowhere to dominate the airwaves and video channels, longtime fans felt angered by the masses who suddenly flocked to their favorites whom they had been following for years.

While some suddenly proclaimed themselves fans and bowed down to the stars of the sound like Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, donning their plaid and becoming sullen seemingly overnight, people who had watched the progression of these artists from Fecal Matter and Temple of the Dog seethed.

They loathed the fact that these new converts had no idea where their heroes came from and were clueless when it came to their predecessors like Mother Love Bone, the Melvins, and Black Flag.

To some, knowing the history somehow made you a better fan and one who could look down your nose at the new kid on the block who simply wanted to be a part of the growing trend.

Apparently the bands have changed, but the songs remain the same.

Some MMA fans think that because they've been around since Gerard Gordeau knocked out Teila Tuli's tooth and can tell you everyone that held a championship in Pride, their opinions and thoughts are more valid than those who couldn't pick Fedor Emelianenko out of a lineup if they were given seven tries.

They differentiate between MMA fans and "UFC fans," as if the latter is some form of second-class citizen for not having the depth of knowledge of "a real MMA fan."

While the distinction is certainly apt, there are no rules anywhere stating you have to be one or the other and cannot possibly be both.

Most "hockey fans" are actually "NHL fans," if true labels were somehow necessary, as few of them spend hours on end pouring over stories and box scores from the East Coast League or Europe. The same goes for football, basketball, baseball, and countless other sports.

Yet to some, MMA is supposed to be different?

Here's an idea: Instead of getting all upset about the influx of fans whose knowledge base doesn't meet the lofty levels required to achieve "real MMA fan" status, you help educate them, teaching them about the history of the sport, past legends, and the great organizations that exist outside the walls of the UFC.

Maybe then you won't feel like "all fans are shallow enough to truly believe that Dana is God and all of MMA is his creation [while] no one will admit that MMA exists outside of the UFC."

Unless you're part of the solution, you're part of the problem.