Dan Steinberg, the big dog and the top blogger at the Washington Post's sports dept wrote a column on UFN 20. His chief take aways: the limited demographic appeal of the UFC:
I suggested to play-by-play guy Joe Rogan that the demographic seemed to be 30ish white dudes.
"But that's the people that come to the live events," he said. "I think there's a lot of people that are apprehensive about coming to it live, people who might be closet MMA fans, enjoy it at home, but . . . "
By this point, some 30ish white dudes were screaming at Rogan for a photo.
His other main concern was the perceived brutality of the arm bar that beat Efrain Escudero:
This friendly chap named Evan Dunham defeated Efrain Escudero with a third-round arm bar. Dunham said he knew he had it won by the vibrations he could feel in Escudero's arm; "when I was cranking on it, it went POP, POP, POP," he explained. "When I felt it start giving a little bit, I knew I had something there."
I later followed up with Dunham, and he seemed almost apologetic about the pop, pop, popping.
All in all, a pretty mixed bag.
Why do we care? Simple. Guys like Dan Steinberg still set the sports news agenda for the corporate media. I honestly think it will require generational change for MMA to really become a part of the main fabric of American sporting culture. And we've got many hurdles to clear to get there.
The UFC has accomplished incredible things in getting us this far, but the whole edifice could easily come crumbling down. Imagine a perfect storm of steroid scandals, an in-cage death on prime time network television, a business scandal of some kind -- if the wrong combination hit all at once, MMA in the U.S.A. could be kaput very quickly.
UPDATE (by Kid Nate): Beau Dure of USA TODAY points out in the comments that Steinberg's online column is a bit more even handed than the print-only version I linked to above. Also, Steinberg is younger than me, so the generational change point becomes a little problematic, but the reality is, MMA is new to Steinberg, not something he grew up with and understands. He's open to it and providing very even handed coverage -- and he's not a johnny-come-lately either, as his great feature on UWC champ Mike Easton shows.