UFC 100 provided the mainstream media and other writers with a lot of fuel to bash the sport we so dearly enjoy every weekend. Specifically, Brock Lesnar's post-fight antics have garnered interest in a negative way from many sports outlets that simply don't understand the sport. I'm also inclined to believe their business doesn't understand that MMA is going to continue to grow, and those outlets aren't appealing to more readers by bashing it.
Mainstream media (MSM) is missing out on a golden opportunity to capitalize off the popularity of the UFC at this stage in MMA's growth. Most outlets are deeming this event as the "top end" of the buzz surrounding MMA, and some are calling for a slow decline in the popularity because UFC 100 was the absolute climax of what the promotion could put together in terms of fights on later cards. I completely disagree with that concept, and I think it's ignorant that even mainstream media writers truly believe that's going to happen.
Here's the facts. UFC 100 was quite possibly the best event of this year in terms of matches, but I wasn't overly impressed with the event. I'm a hardcore MMA fan, and that makes my insight into the actual matches more in the view of a MMA purist rather than a fan who just wants to see fights.
Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir was the bout within the Heavyweight division that had to happen, and it was a must-have fight on this card. St. Pierre vs. Alves received a lot of hype in the preceding week, but I figured that GSP's take downs would easily snuff Alves' chances and that's just what happened. Jon Fitch vs. Paulo Thiago went as expected, and Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Alan Belcher was as tough as I expected it, although it was more of a disappointment in not seeing Akiyama try to use his judo techniques against a larger Belcher. That was probably more wishful thinking than an actual accurate depiction of what I thought would happen.
Even the Henderson vs. Bisping bout was a bit more uneventful than I had hoped. Most fans expected either a boxing clinic by Bisping coupled with quick footwork, or a Henderson knockout, but the preceding action wasn't at all that exciting in terms of skill. Bisping circled and kept away, but rarely tagged Henderson with anything significant or aggressive. I would, however, state that it was the most exciting finish we've seen in quite some time.
Was it truly this massively epic card that we should tout as insurmountable? No, it wasn't. In terms of star power, it was that type of event, but are we to believe the UFC can't once again create an event that can surpass UFC 100? Give me a break.
My view on the event isn't the main issue here. The main issue is that the UFC can put on events that, on paper, don't look stellar, but those events could turn out to be massive successes. While PPV numbers probably wouldn't indicate that event's success, the appeal of those fighters following those events will rise. Furthermore, there are some much bigger match-ups that can happen in the future. A Fedor vs. Brock Lesnar showdown would bring every single hardcore fan out of the woodwork, and casual fans have enough of an interest in MMA to realize that is one of the lone individuals in the sport that stands a high chance of defeating Lesnar.
So, how is the mainstream media missing out on this opportunity? Sites like USA Today and Yahoo! Sports are already solid places to look for mainstream media coverage that isn't ignorant to MMA. They are supporting MMA as a legitimate source of interest to fans. They recognize that MMA is growing substantially, and those sites are feeding off an ever-growing fanbase.
The problem is the other media outlets that still have these "old school" reporters who grew up in an era in which boxing was a giant. Those media outlets are missing the opportunities that MMA presents. Those writers are the ones that are blasphemously stating that this is the pinnacle of the sport, and it'll die down in the aftermath. The only problem I see here is that it seems like a lot of wishful thinking on their part as a method to make themselves feel better about keeping their jobs while still bashing MMA as "cockfighting".
The numbers don't lie, and those same numbers can't be ignored when it comes to the appeal of MMA. Those major media outlets need to either re-assign those writers or tell those writers to move away from reporting anything on MMA because it's nothing but negative. If they want a piece of the pie, they should probably resort to hiring writers that care about the sport. It puzzles me that some of these outlets don't understand the general movement of readership when it comes to topics about sports. Generally, I won't read a paper that is constantly bashing something I love with no legitimate reason to bash it other than ignorance.
This brings me right into the most highly-focused issue by many writers at UFC 100, the Brock Lesnar post-fight interview. A lot of people are claiming that this is such a bad thing for the sport because of Lesnar's antics, but I'm under the firm belief that it has the opposite effect on actual appeal numbers and revenue. Sure, we can sit here and criticize that it moves away from a more professional look to the sport and adds a more circus atmosphere that could move mainstream media outlets walking the line on whether to cover the sport out of the mix. The problem is that those antics down the road are only going to produce more hype, more buys, and more crossover fans. Then what? Those same outlets would have missed the boat 10 events ago.
I'm for a more professional look to the sport, but from a pure business view of a media outlet... Lesnar's antics are going to create more buzz. Focusing on his foaming at the mouth and calling him a crazy guy isn't going to make groves of casual fans run for the hills. As a hardcore fan, I don't even focus on these ridiculous over-analyzations of the interview, but rather the future matches that Lesnar will be involved in. I know that casual fans will continue to buy PPVs to watch Brock Lesnar fight, and if anything, those antics have created a massive love-hate relationship in which many fans will tune in to simply find out if a challenger can shut Brock Lesnar up.
All the hate stemming from the Brock Lesnar post-fight antics is coming straight out of either newspaper writers who haven't the slightest desire to like MMA, MMA writers, or hardcore fans who generally think it's bad for the sport. It's bad if you want to see MMA progress into something more professional, but in terms of building more buzz around future events, it works. In fact, it'll have a Tito Ortiz effect.
Fans who like Brock Lesnar for whatever reason either because they have followed him in the WWE over to the UFC or because they love to see a massive heavyweight crush people will tune in. Hardcore purists who want to see the "technical" MMA fighter defeat the brute will tune in to hate Brock Lesnar. It's a win-win for the UFC in terms of profits and revenues, and it'll appeal more fans to MMA.
Mainstream media outlets can sit around criticizing, but the main point here is that those outlets are missing out on the cash cow that is MMA's continual growth. Bash the Lesnar incident all you want, but the sport is only going to get bigger because of it. In an era in which an NFL player can get drunk and kill someone or shoot themselves, it's odd how NFL ratings continue to be high. What's the big difference between the NFL player antics and Lesnar's antics? That's right, Lesnar foamed at the mouth, shoved a finger in Frank Mir's face, flipped a double-bird, and told everyone he was going to mount his wife. The majority of the fanbase doesn't care.
This isn't an apples to apples comparison however. Dante Stallworth's vehicular manslaughter while under the influence is much worse than a bunch of words coming out of Lesnar's mouth. The similarity resides in the fact that fans simply want to be entertained. Stallworth will be back, and fans won't tune out a game because of it. Fans aren't going to turn away from MMA because of Lesnar's antics.