There’s no doubt the UFC and MMA in general is on a meteoric rise in popularity. Yet, while Dana White keeps touting the UFC’s potential to become truly mainstream, the question always surfaces, “Can MMA, as it is today, truly become mainstream?”.
There are many reasons for and against the UFC’s potential for mainstream appeal. Some pundits claim it’s already in the mainstream, while others still believe it has a way to go before getting there. Traditionally, team sports have been mainstream and cultural staples in many different countries. Soccer, Hockey, Basketball, Football, Tennis, Rugby and Cricket. All of them are team sports and many of them have a mainstream audience with a long history of support behind them. MMA however is a relatively young “sport”. Sure the art forms it’s composed of are veritably ancient but as a mass market icon it’s only just starting to hit the radar of television screens and mobile phones everywhere.
If you look at the statistics (with 11 plus million Facebook fans alone) the UFC seems like it’s an impossible opponent in the struggle for the mainstream audience. But there are some things that are still holding it back. Let’s look at a few:
1. The ground game is still poorly understood by the masses. – Many spectators just don’t “get” grappling and Brazilian Jiujitsu (as is evidenced by the large crowds booing athletes who chose to fight their battles on their back.) Beyond that the judging for ground based assaults (take downs specifically) leaves many questions unanswered and can create a great deal of controversy when it comes down to a decision.
2. The sport is very bloody. – Yes that may be a reason why many of us love the sport but it’s also a big reason why many parents may hesitate letting younger children begin watching it. This is a big factor in creating a mainstream audience. You must be able to attract families and children especially. They will grow with the sport and will ensure a consistent or even stronger fan base in the future.
3. Opportunity in the sport is seriously lacking. – Sure plenty of fighters may be getting a shot at their 5 to 15 minutes of fame in the ring but by and large the salaries are paltry in comparison to other mainstream sports. Beyond that the risks for injury are much more immediate and with no union and poor health coverage the appeal for youth to engage in the sport begins to whittle away.
4. Even when on their feet, the stand up game is fairly sloppy. – Compared to professional boxers and kick boxers the standup in many MMA fights is just down right sloppy. So many fighters want to be good at it all but few put in the years of training necessary to effectively master each art form. It takes time and time is money and when you have the limited financial opportunity paired with a slight tinge of desperation there is a recipe for disaster forming that stems from massive corner cutting. It may take the form of limited training or even an extreme of performance enhancing supplements, either way the focus should be on training and technical improvements when creating a really compelling mixed martial artist.
So what should be done? Perhaps nothing at all…
This is where Glory (currently one of the most popular Kickboxing promotions in the world) comes in.
Glory World Series currently airs on Spike and puts on fights all across the globe. They have a fresh and cool color scheme and some truly excellent talent. Another amazing feature of the sport of kickboxing in general is that it adds to what is missing in boxing without taking the game to the ground. This essentially revitalizes what is, by and large, a mainstream combat sport that is universally recognized across the world.
So how can the UFC and MMA’s popularity help Glory? Well, first of all, it’s giving people a taste of what they want to see and now that they have that taste they will be craving for more. While many may be too timid to admit it there are quite a few professional mixed martial artists who agree that Kickboxing (especially how Glory presents it) has more potential for mainstream appeal than MMA. No matter how much we love it, we must concede this possibility exists.
Glory answers the 4 issues raised above and also brings a fresh look to a familiar sport for many. But what other evidence is there of this potential? Well, just take a look at the investments. Spike TV isn’t being foolish with their endorsement of both Bellator and Glory. If anything it’s a good chance they are hedging their bets. Whether one takes over the other, they are in a winning position. Able to satisfy both audiences and unbeknownst to many MMA fans there is a good deal of cross over in the sport. In fact, if you haven’t checked out a Glory World Series event, you really should. It’s a different animal but one that is amazing and entertaining in it’s own right.
As more methodical individuals analysts here at SciFighting are taking a “wait and see” approach to this. However we are paying close attention to both and will continue to cover each with equal enthusiasm. We certainly don’t believe that MMA will be going away any time soon, if ever, but we do concede that there is a chance that Glory could be a sleeper that just ends up surprising everyone by using MMA’s momentum to propel it to the forefront of more audiences than it could have on it’s own.
Either way, as combat sports aficionados, we are excited about what the future holds. What do you think? Can Glory come out on top as the mainstream combat sport promotion of the future?