The UFC recently held a pre-fight press conference for UFC 135. The conference was full of the usual trash talk between the headliners UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and challenger Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, but there was something there that excelled beyond even their importance—kids.
Yes, kids! If you were watching the latter part of the press conference in which UFC president Dana White let the fans ask questions once the media had their say, you would've seen two kids being given the chance to ask a question.
Did the two children ask questions of such earth-shattering magnitude that it forever changed the MMA world?
Hardly. The first child—a girl—introduced herself as the first ever women's UFC fighter and the next child asked about what steps he needed to take to get into the UFC.
While the kids had nothing groundbreaking to say, it wasn't necessarily their words that were important; it was their very presence at the press conference!
When Dana White and Zuffa purchased the UFC in 2001, there was no way in the world you'd see children at a UFC press conference. The attitude towards the organization and towards the sport itself has since shifted dramatically, as indicated by the children at the press conference.
The UFC is now seen as a more legitimate sport, one that is safe to watch for children. But more important than that, it's safe for children to practice MMA as well.
Both kids asked questions that implied that they trained. While this seems to be something minor that can be swiftly glossed over and dismissed as unimportant, it's actually a crucial fact in the long-term outlook for MMA.
What does it mean?
It means that parents are letting kids watch the events and are in fact encouraging their kids (perhaps even against their child's will as so many parents who did nothing with their own lives often do) to participate in the sport. If the UFC is popular enough for parents to be pushing their kids into it, is it really as far away from NFL-level popularity as we think?
The current generation of parents is now no longer afraid of having its children train in MMA; the sport isn't "too violent" anymore. These kids, even if they don't train, will be exposed to the UFC being popular and not a taboo organization practically since birth.
The current group of children will follow the UFC throughout their lives. When these kids grow up and have kids of their own, those kids will be hooked on the UFC for life as well, creating a household, and a society, where MMA is a sport that entire families are into.
What the presence of kids at the press conference really means is that the UFC is pervading the rest of society. Its stranglehold over solely the male 18-34 demographic is at an end. It was simply a matter of time.
The 18-34 males who watched the first season of The Ultimate Fighter are beginning to have their own children, who will be raised on MMA. This means that, over time, the UFC will captivate not only young, single males, but children and parents, even females!
The events of UFC 135 will come and go, as will champions like Jones and "Rampage." But what will be remembered about UFC 135 is that the pre-fight press conference was where the UFC's eventual captivation of society as a whole became a fact, all thanks to the presence of a couple of kids.