Promotion. Fighters. Viewership. Coverage. What will mainstream MMA do to the things we've become accustomed to in our sport of choice? I'm not just talking about the UFC on FOX event. I'm thinking long-term. Years into this colossal deal, the one that simultaneously caused all of our minds to implode with the possibilities and opportunities it could bring, we may very well see more opportunities that we primarily though. For each and every good thing it may bring, there may be an unforeseen negative. I will attempt to address the most likely positives and negatives of MMA's introduction to the general public throughout this piece, and even some suggestions for organizations going forward.
- It is important to note that proper ad campaigns are vital here. We need more of the innovative promos like this promo for UFC 125, or this promo for Bellator's fifth season. We can't have any more of the commercials that will only appeal to the "bring the pain" or the "just bleed" personas, the UFC and any other promotion will greatly benefit from showing that MMA is more than just the fighting at hand, but an art with many intricacies, while still maintaining the wow factor.
- It will become vital for MMA to have that other second tier promotion, being well known enough where people will know who is going to start competing in the "big leagues" of the UFC. Right now it's Bellator, but this "second place" position has changed hands so many times that maybe something big can happen for another promotion. It is obvious that Spike TV will play a key role in this second tier, as it has become the true home to MMA (sorry HDnet). It will obviously be a little hard for them to host compelling matchups, but honestly, it would serve the same purpose as every league but the UFC has performed for the last decade, as a feeder league, but on a larger scale.
- As stated above, promotions will have to change up their ad campaigns, so this may very well lead to a more varied viewership, including some more intelligent fans. Fans that will appreciate the sport similar to us hardcores, minus the nostalgia. And it will lighten up more people that were so opposed to MMA for what a select few idiots made it look like.
- Technical appreciation/innovation: Good promotion will inevitably have to inform newer fans as to what is going on, especially in grappling exchanges. Through this, it will likely cause at least a stir in new people that will go to their local MMA gym to check out the Jiu Jitsu program. It may cause a couple of kids to check out their school's wrestling program. With increases in programs like this, or even in Muay Thai and Kickboxing, those specific sports will also gain some benefits from this. They will be given even the slightest bit more attention, and that will eventually lead to even more growth for that sport. With more practitioners come more innovators, and with each year the sport could have evolved, with new techniques, training, maybe even just a new form of footwork or stance, but it will undoubtably lead to even more excitement and evolution.
- The death of the Affliction/Tapout manly men. These guys will either feel like MMA had sold out, or will just slowly become more mature and recognize MMA as a legitimate sport and not "the scrap this weekend, bro." Some may view this as a negative, but for the most part, these people are a good and necessary loss, and I love it.
- Young kids that think they know their stuff. Don't get me wrong, some kids can show a great maturity level and understanding for many things, but they will be vastly outnumbered by the outspoken idiots that just hit puberty and want the world to know it. The rude little brats that you can't stand will be talking about MMA like they're experts, when they don't know their Peruvian Neck Tie from their Gogoplata. A necessary loss, but luckily they will be less prominent than the Affliction/Tapout bunch.
- Possible over saturation of the new market. Luckily this may not be too much of a problem early on, because it appears that the UFC's deal with FOX will be limited to a certain number of events. But if this deal does well, and they get greedy, the talent pool might not have caught up with the organization's expansion yet, and events will suffer. We will see a couple of marquee matchups, but we could definitely see a large amount of events akin to UFC 133 and the like if the UFC tries to go too fast.
Of all of the people involved in this situation, the fighters are by far the ones with the most to gain. Here we can see higher fighter pay finally come to fruition, at all levels of the sport. Fighters in the promotions fighting for second place onSpike TV, HDnet, or maybe even some new networks for their shot at legitimacy will definitely be seeing some raises being on a new format with more money for their promotion. The pound-for-pound greats will finally be getting the big bucks at the top of the sport, and we will likely see them at their best. It will become a more forgiving sport for a while so long as you can get into shows, and people will not have to worry too much about going broke if they aren't succeeding at the highest level. With this decreased risk, we will see more fighters come along and many more big names can be born.
Fighters will get more recognition for their hard work. There are many hard working athletes out there, in all of their respective sports, but to me, none train like mixed martial artists. The immense amount of knowledge and the lack of a team to count on if you mess up will certainly shine through showing just how tough these guys are. They work very hard and their discipline will shine, hopefully impressing some doubters along the way.
The added publicity will also showcase the huge amount of characters involved in the sport. The laid back guys like Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre, the spiritual characters like Jon Jones and Ben Henderson, and the crazy guys like Mayhem and Chael Sonnen will all be in the public eye, and open to a whole slew of opinions about them. This will show that not all fighters are freaks that need to punch each other in the face, but that some are more family oriented, modest, and even some that just do it because they love it. I really see no cons in this move up for the fighters whatsoever, and I'm glad, because they work very hard for our entertainment.
Here is what they stand to gain:
- A great deal of fame. They will be talked about much more which will benefit them even after they've hung up the gloves.
- Better deals with current sponsors/New higher paying sponsors: As I stated above, all levels of MMA will be bumped up. That means huge sponsors like Nike, Adidas, Gatorade, Under Armour, etc. will all be introduced to the higher levels of MMA fighters. This also means that if other sponsors want to keep up, they'll have to give some more money to be kept on by their fighters. Second tier fighters in the lower ranks of the UFC and in Bellator will be given some great sponsorships as well, with the added fame of mainstream attention, so they likely will be receiving more for their intense work as well.
- Insurance/Unions: Yes, the UFC has recently acquired health plans for all of their contracted fighters, but that does not mean that they are given the best medical care possible. Here in the public eye, they will likely receive better health coverage, for better doctors and more necessary procedures. The fact that with one injury Cub Swanson has already used up all of his coverage shows that this is not the best it could be. As a result, we will see healthier fighters, albeit a little less often, but this will certainly lead to better fights. A fighter's union will also probably be made, to address better pay for athletes as well as other important accommodations for what they need.
It is pretty obvious that with mainstream attention that viewership will definitely increase, however, it may not be all at once. The first UFC on FOX event should do big numbers, but that is not a given. Of course, the second Cain and Dos Santos step into that cage, every MMA fan that hasn't been living under a rock will be watching. But that doesn't necessarily mean that people that have had very little exposure to MMA will. Some friends may tell friends, and maybe there will be a large amount of people watching. Some may decide it's just not for them, while others will become fans in an instant. Slowly it will show up more often, with bigger events. More fans means more money, more money means more promotion, and more promotion means more fans. Finally it will become present in conversations throughout the offices, schools, and homes of the world, like other great sports already are. It is about time for MMA to be recognized as a legitimate sport, and this means a lot for all involved.
Here we will see yet another revolutionary addition to MMA. While there have been ways for more hardcore fans to immerse themselves in the sport, on shows like Inside MMA and MMA Live, there has never been a big following for these shows, and there should be. While these programs will likely gain a following as well, we will probably see more formal coverage shows. There will undoubtably be some new fans looking to learn more about the fighters and techniques involved in mixed martial arts, and there will hopefully be a platform to allow that. Better pre and post fight shows, more appearances in regularly watched sports shows and news networks, and more stories about fighters themselves, good or bad.
With added exposure people will see the real people behind the sport, and it will be nice to see what other people's opinions will be about characters like Dana White, Rashad Evans, and Jon Jones. People may become inspired to become a part of this great sport, and we may see one of the great trainers or elite fighters that never would have been if it weren't for this tremendous jump. I know there are many more possibilities than even the ones I suggested, and that is what is so great about this, much like a good fight, you never know what can happen.