I’m a fan of MMA (mixed martial arts) first, and a fan of UFC second.
My appreciation for the UFC comes from its ability to showcase “A” level fighters. Personally, I'll watch MMA regardless of the organization sponsoring the fight—but not everyone agrees.
The UFC has become “the thing” of today, but what would happen to MMA in North America if the UFC were to become a thing of the past?
The casual fans today aren’t passionate about the sport. They're fans of UFC first, and MMA second.
I can remember when the MMA used to be barbaric and disgusting to some of my girlfriends back in the day. Suddenly those same girls are gathering around the television to cheer on their favorite UFC fighters.
It’s cool now, but you still couldn’t get these new fans to sit and watch an IFL show on Saturday Night.
A huge sign of North America’s lack of appreciation for the sport is the booing during matches that aren't bloody enough. You'd never hear something like that during a show taking place in Japan, where the fans love the sport and understand what they’re watching.
So the question stands: What if the UFC went under? Would all those fans be able to watch another organization with as much interest?
By the end of 2007, UFC will have aired 19 live shows in the last year. We also get an Ultimate Fight Night every Friday, and a reality show that airs once a week.
That's a whole lot of exposure, and it causes the casual fan to only know MMA as UFC.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not sure whether MMA is the fastest growing sport in North America, or whether the UFC is the fastest growing company.
It seems as if so many of today's UFC fans are just jumping on the wagon—and if things slow down, they're going to jump off and never look back.
For MMA to stay popular, some other companies need to legitimize themselves. M-1 is a candidate—signing the best Heavyweight in the world, Fedor Emelienenko, shows they mean business.
If M-1 can manage to get Randy Couture after his UFC contract is up, they may save the sport in North America by broadening its base.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has also expressed interest in starting an MMA company. Cuban definitely has the money to do it—but it takes more than just money to run a good fight company.
Hopefully Mark will have the sense to assemble a team of professionals who know MMA and the business well enough to get the ball rolling.
In the end, we can only hope that these new companies do well and compete with the UFC. Competition will force the UFC to work harder—and will benefit the fighters by giving them more opportunities to make money.
Most importantly, if Dana White and the Fertittas sink the ship, the whole damn sport won’t go down with them.