Andrew Sharp of SBNation.com wrote up a piece on his experience as a non-MMA fan attending UFC 109. I really, really urge you guys to check it out. Here's a little bit of the story to whet your appetite:
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Mixed Martial Arts—and its most prominent brand, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or the UFC—has struggled to gain mainstream acceptance. At least among the more traditional sports fans and media, the fastest growing sport in the world still percolates beneath the surface. Or worse, it gets dismissed altogether.
You don't like Mixed Martial Arts? You don't respect it? I used to be in the same boat.
Depending on your levels of cynicism, it’s either a form of human cruelty, or a slightly more legitimized form of WWF wrestling, equal parts barbaric and cartoonish. And it's stereotypes like those that have kept the UFC relegated to the margins of the mainstream. So far, "serious" people have refused to embrace it, and as a result, idiot sports fans like me just dismiss it.
People see the UFC as an organization promoting these barbaric cage matches, bastardizing the sports of boxing and wrestling, and turning them into pure bloodsport. The athletes train hard, yes, but can they really compare to other pro athletes? Someone like Randy Couture may be tough, but so is Ray Lewis—can Randy Couture also run a 4.6 40-yard dash? These are the arguments that sports fans use when they're dismissing MMA as a perversion and a waste of time. Much ado about nothing.
It may be insanely popular, but so are the Black Eyed Peas. And look at all the fans, wearing those ridiculous Affliction shirts. We're supposed to take this seriously? What the hell is a tap out?
And it's our loss. I went to a fight this weekend—UFC 109, which wasn't even supposed to be a spectacular card—and despite some serious skepticism, it took all of five minutes to be converted. The energy gets you first, then it's the fighting styles, then it's the fans, and finally, the fighters, themselves. It's all on par with any big football or basketball game, and yes, a boxing match. The UFC culture is insular, and I was an outsider, but again, all it took was five minutes.
But before we get too far into it, some backstory. I came into this story knowing absolutely nothing about mixed martial arts or the UFC. I'd heard the stereotypes mentioned above, and seen a few minutes of a fight broadcast on CBS, but otherwise, I was pretty much a clean slate. This past weekend was my education in all things MMA.
There is much, much more to the piece and again, I hope you all take the time to read it to understand how people view our sport and also to enjoy how its infectious energy can capture a portion of the skeptics who are willing to give it a chance.