The stumbling block often issued against this idea -- namely, that the marriage between a dance competition and MMA is not natural and therefore meaningless -- should be discounted. DWTS is good precisely because it doesn’t force Liddell to adhere to outdated conceptions of fight sport participants. Those who fear fighting or are unaccustomed to viewing it as sport ultimately believe fighters are static characters who can do nothing but their occupation. Liddell is being given an opportunity unlike what he’s received in B-movies and HBO’s “Entourage”: the chance to demonstrate what else he can do and maybe reveal a little human personality along the way.
Then there is the issue of DWTS’ size. For starters, DWTS isn’t just a big show; it’s positively gigantic. In fact, DWTS is actually a worldwide phenomenon with various permutations in dozens of countries, much like its rival in Fox’s “American Idol.” And if that pedigree doesn’t impress you, the performance should: The show’s recent ratings upswing since a 2007 semi-slump has some wondering if it will overtake the reliable yet slightly declining “American Idol” as the most-watched program in all of television.
In ratings numbers, that translates to a season eight opener of 22.5 million viewers, an all-time record for premieres on DWTS. By comparison, that’s more than three times the number of viewers for the highest-rated MMA program on network television. The show also demonstrated some audience loyalty and reliable programming through the course of that season and finished strong with 20.1 million viewers during the finale. It should also be noted that DWTS is a program airing on ABC, a station currently dominating the television markets and ratings in the young adults 18-49 year-old demographic (not to mention 12 years old and up) in programming far beyond DWTS.
The notion that Liddell will be performing to nothing but violence-averse, doe-eyed and otherwise unsuspecting women who will gain nothing from his appearance save revulsion is patently false. We are talking about ABC, not Lifetime television. While this isn’t the Affliction T-shirt, stand-em-up-ref hoi polloi so commonly understood to be the archetypal MMA fan, the truth is the effort required to convert women and older men is not nearly as onerous as advertised. It takes muscle and time, but it can be done. So while the enormous DWTS audience isn’t the fountain of youth that MMA can use to build an enduring fan base, the well is hardly dry.