There are a couple major knocks to the sport of mixed martial arts. One is that the average fan is absurdly uneducated in its intricacies. Sure, some of us know the ins and outs, but most of the people who claim to be MMA fans are the ones who go ahead by calling it "Ultimate Fighting." The average fan doesn't know enough about the rules, the organizations, or the fighters (other than what Rogan and Goldberg decide to tell them). Another knock to the sport is the claim that its competitors are "street thugs", not athletes. Many see fighters as "punks looking for a scrap", as my elderly grandparents would abruptly put it. I'm going to tell you what MMA, but more directly, the UFC needs to do to fix this.
I put the load on the shoulders of the UFC because, not only is it the most recognizeable organization, but it is also the only one that has the financial breathing room to explore such ventures.
The average fan needs to become educated. You'll never go to a football game and find fans who don't know what a first down, or a field goal is. Why then, do I often go to MMA events and find countless fans who can't tell me what a guillotine choke, or being in side-control is? The solution? Team up with ESPN. The UFC needs to stop being such a girl about selling rights to its footage, and let major sports broadcasting networks show highlights of their fights in daily sports coverage. Switch anchors to one who knows what they're talking about, and run a couple of minutes of clips once a week. I guarantee it will work wonders.
The UFC needs to create more telivision shows going deeper into basic MMA terminology and rules. They could do specials on the major MMA arts (ie: Judo, BJJ, Boxing, Wrestling, etc).
Get rid of "The Ultimate Fighter". It does nothing for the sport. We all understand that it was great in its early years. Hell, it introduced me to the sport. Now, all it does is contribute to the flood of UFC fighters, postpone title fights, create nobody's that everyone wants to talk about (see- Jesse Taylor), and further harm society's view of the sport. Watching 16 testosterone filled men trash a house and swear, as honest as it may be, is not what the sport needs. Plus, the ratings suck for it anyways! Just get rid of it.
And finally, as controversial as this last point may be, Dana White needs to be replaced. He can stay with the organization as maintain his role, but people need to stop giving him the microphone. Hopefully, with the new old news of Lorenzo Fertitta focusing his work entirely on the UFC, we can now see someone shut Dana up. It's not his off-color comments that I have a problem with. And I fully understand that he has done great things for the UFC and the sport as a whole. But he has done his part, and it is time to move on.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that the sport has come a long way in the last couple years. Hopefully we can take it another step.