It’s hard to comprehend just how big MMA has become in just a few decades. Though mixed martial arts has a long and storied history that dates back centuries, it has never had such a global appeal. Today, UFC, the headline MMA company, has a valuation of some $10 billion. Events put on by the promotion company can attract the same level of interest and media coverage as historically more esteemed sporting events. And this all happened within the space of a few decades: UFC held its first event in 1993. And nearly 30 years later, the UFC shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. So what are the reasons for this dramatic success story? Let’s take a look.
Boxing On The Wane
There’ll always be one combat sport that’s popular with the masses. That’s an idea that stretches all the way back to the gladiators in Rome, and probably even before. For the last couple of centuries, it has been boxing. But boxing has run into problems in recent years, and interest in the sport has declined.
While it retains popularity in certain corners, the global appeal has shrunk, perhaps in response to the lack of standout heavyweight boxers. Of course, interest in boxing will never cease entirely. These things ebb and flow. But the current dip has been good for MMA, which was able to fill the gap left by the heavyweight-sized hole in boxing.
More than an evening
UFC events only happen every four weeks or so. But UFC fans can get their fill of the sport they love far more than on just one night a month. It can become part of their lifestyle. There are UFC podcasts, forums, and even MMA themed slot games, to name just three ways that fans can enjoy the sport away from fight night. The universe surrounding the sport means it’s more than something that fans — even entry-level fans — can engage with on a regular basis.
However, the world of slots hasn’t only affected sport: just think of the influence that ancient history still has today on daily entertainment. Many games clearly hark back to vanished civilizations and eras that fascinate more and more. An example above all is the Book of Dead online casino slot starring Rich Wilde, an explorer in search of lost treasures.
If you’re going to attract widespread acceptance, then you have to be palatable to a wide audience. In the early days of UFC, and more broadly historically in MMA, the sport was seen by many to be too violent. The assessment was justified. Indeed, the sport was so aggressive that it was actually banned in 36 states. Any sport would face an uphill battle against such opposition.
At that point, UFC had a decision to make: stay as they are, and appeal to only a limited audience, or make some changes and go for everyone. They chose the latter. By making a few subtle changes that removed the more gruesome (to some) aspects of the sport, they were able to hit the prime-time television market. And that’s just where any sport with ambitions needs to be.
You can put all the pieces in place to create an empire. But sometimes, you need a spark of lightning to really get things moving. And that’s just what UFC got in the shape of Conor McGregor. How good his MMA skills will be though of by future experts remains to be seen. What is in no doubt is that he helped to elevate the sport to another dimension of popularity.
His swagger and bravado encapsulate everything you need to know about UFC, and the public were on board. People who had never heard of UFC would tune in just to watch him fight. He’s not the fighter to lift the sport into the stratosphere. Ronda Rousey, Nate Diaz, and Anderson Silva all played their bit. But it was the cocky Irishman who did more than most.