One of the statements being thrown around from nearly every MMA pundit regarding the UFCs landmark deal with the FOX network was that this agreement would move the UFC (read: MMA) into the mainstream conscious of the American viewing public.
Well, the very real fact is that the UFC was main stream long before this deal was done. MMA fans love to hold onto the notion that their beloved sport is something that only the cool kids know about. There is a certain pride inherited in being into something cool before it’s deemed cool by the masses. In many ways the old school MMA fan is the sport equivalent of the music snob.
But here is the thing, the UFC has long been considered “mainstream” by the general public. I can’t tell you the number of males 18-40 who have at least a passing familiarity of the sport of MMA, and more specifically, the UFC. Granted, it’s a good marketing gimmick to constantly rally for the acceptance of mainstream America.
In this respect you not only give those who hold dear the notion that MMA is counterculture a rallying cry, but you also give the casual fan on the fence hope that the sport they are seeing is not in fact human cockfighting but a viable sport. But when your company has multimillion dollar deals with cable networks, fan expos that draw thousands, numerous lines of action figures and your very own top-selling video game, well, excuse me if I don’t lump he die-hard MMA fans with that of a “Juggalo”.
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Face it, the UFC is big business. Hell, it’s more profitable than your average boxing promotion, yet you don’t hear boxing power brokers clamoring for acceptance from the masses. Sure, the UFCs deal with FOX is huge and will no doubt bring a whole slew of new eyeballs to the UFC, and by extension, MMA in general. But to consider this deal the moment in time when MMA ascended from the shadows of dive bars and the favelas of Brazil would be a fallacy given that that moment has long since passed.
Granted, the sport still trails the likes of the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL in terms of American popularity but MMA is rapidly growing and its inclusion into the public eye is nothing new. In fact, MMA has become downright trendy whether it is the sport being featured on The Simpsons (complete with Chuck Liddell cameo) to episodes of my daughter’s favorite show, iCarly, which has featured MMA in certain episode plots. This also fails to mention the dramatic effect on male style that MMA has produced after all without MMA; companies like TapouT and Affliction would be far from the clothing juggernaut they can now boast to be.
MMA is no longer the sole possession of a select few fight junkies who would religiously trade old VHS tapes of PRIDE and vale tudo matches amongst one another. Now of days the sport can be seen on a plethora of mediums with new fans embracing the sport on a daily basis. Sure, the UFC has launched an era where MMA will not be seen on broadcast television for the world to see. But to say that this is the moment when MMA is legitimized is wrong. MMA has been mainstream for years now.