MMA: When Do We Consider It Mainstream?
The huge growth of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts over the past few decades has been astonishing to say the least.
Rewind to the early 1990's, and MMA was widely regarded as "human cock fighting" and could not get any exposure or mainstream coverage. When Dana White and the Fertitta's purchased the UFC, any thought of the UFC and MMA appearing on major TV networks, PPV's, and getting coverage on major news networks would have been laughed at.
However, fast forward to present day, and the UFC is now one of the major sports organizations in the world, and the sport of MMA is huge business and ever expanding.
With this growth, the question of MMA going mainstream often crops up and it is something I regularly consider as a follower and commentator on the sport.
So when do we consider MMA as a mainstream sport?
Well, I would argue that it already is, depending on your geographical location.
You see, being originally from the UK but now living in Canada, I have a unique perspective on this issue.
MMA in Canada and the US has gone mainstream, and it has been for some time. Since the birth and phenomenal success of The Ultimate Fighter series on SPIKE, the UFC and the sport of MMA has filtered into mainstream media and society.
Regular coverage on ESPN, Rogers Sportsnet,TSN, The Score, Yahoo, and other news sources has only further helped to establish MMA as a mainstream sport.
The sport is covered by ESPN, which is North America's major sports network. How can it not be considered mainstream? The network even has a weekly show "MMA Live," dedicated to the sport.
Pick any random Canadian or American city, and you can almost guarantee that walking around, you will see people wearing UFC merchandise or Tapout gear or another MMA apparel brand. Name another sport that has clothing lines based around it?
The UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre is now the face of Under Armor, and it will not be long before the likes of Nike or Adidas try to get involved.
Roger Huerta was the first, but a number of MMA related stars have graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. Chuck Liddell appeared in the hit show Dancing With the Stars and many of the sport's big names are now household celebrities.
UFC President Dana White is a Twitter phenom and many of the top ranking celebrities on the social network platform are associated with MMA.
Let's be honest: in Canada and America, MMA is mainstream, and I'd love for you to argue against that.
However, as I said earlier, your geographical location can play a big difference.
MMA is growing rapidly in the UK, and every UFC event held there is a sell out, but the sport is a long way from being mainstream on the other side of the pond.
The media networks work differently in the UK, and MMA is not covered by any of the big players. The biggest news sources that currently feature MMA related news and content are The Telegraph and The Sun.
The PPV's are shown on subscription service, ESPN UK, and are usually at unfavorable hours.
Dana White has commented on it himself, the UFC needs to get on Sky Sports to break through as mainstream in the UK.
Sky Sports and the BBC are easily the two key sports media outlets that MMA needs to be on. Until that time, MMA will not be considered mainstream in the UK.
This will likely be the case across most of Europe. The fans are there, but the major portion of their society has not caught on yet.
The UFC is trying, though. Recent shows in Germany, Australia, and Abu Dhabi are clear signs that the sport will continue to expand, and with that, mainstream status will surely follow.
It really is a matter of time, and if North America is anything to go by, as well as the ever growing presence in the UK, it will not be long before MMA is considered a mainstream sport throughout the world.
It has a regulated and sanctioned major league in the UFC, a vocal and media friendly President in Dana White, and major stars are born from the sport like GSP and Rampage Jackson.
So depending on where you are in the world, MMA is already mainstream or it's only a matter of time!
Love to hear your thoughts on this subject.
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