The president of the UFC has been known to be a bit hyperbolic when discussing the growth a presence of the sport and promotion. Dana White has relied on an old phrase of MMA being "the fastest growing sport in the world" and he's gone on record say that the UFC is "bigger than the NFL" and "neck and neck with soccer" on a global scale.
However, at a recent phone conference promoting UFC Fight Night 31 on Wednesday and UFC Fight Night 32 on Saturday, White curtailed his previous optimism. Marc Raimondi first reported this for Fox Sports:
"It takes a long time," White said Tuesday during a conference call to promote UFC Fight For The Troops on Wednesday and UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson on Saturday. "We’ve only been here for 13 years [as owners] and we really didn’t even start kicking until 2005, 2006."
White told a story about sitting with his kids in seats on the 50-yard line at Gillette Stadium over the weekend to watch his New England Patriots play the Pittsburgh Steelers. He got to talking to one of the fans sitting right behind him and the fan--a 30-something man right smack in the middle of the UFC’s target demographic--had no idea what the Ultimate Fighting Championship was.
"He didn’t even know (Patriots defensive end) Chandler Jones’ brother was the champ of the UFC," White said, referring to light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones. "He was asking me if it was regional."
For us to claim that we’re mainstream, we’re just not.
Despite interest plateauing in the UFC's US home market. The promotion has been making big strides internationally with Brazil recently surpassing Canada as the second biggest market. Additionally, they're planning for expansion in the European market in 2014.