There’s no other way to put it: UFC is insanely popular. In the space of little more than a decade, the sport has gone from being a relatively niche interest to one of the most popular sports in the world. And that, of course, is no accident.
A mixture of well-laid plans and strokes of luck combined to give UFC a global reach beyond its wildest dreams. So how did we get there? Let’s take a look.
Big Name Characters
It’s not just sporting quality that impresses audiences. Personalities do, too. In fact, in some cases, personality is even more important than sporting ability.
People are naturally attracted to sporting narratives, and that’s something that the UFC has by the bucketload. Fights such as Conor McGregor, Anderson Silva, Ronda Rousey, and Nate Diaz brought an edge to the UFC that was impossible to ignore.
Even people who had no interest in the sport became familiar with these names — and for people who had a mild interest in the sport, they were enough of a draw to tune in and see what everyone was talking about. And once people are in, they rarely leave.
The UFC is about more than what happens on fight night. It’s about community. Part of the strength of UFC is that its fans aren’t just armchair viewers: they’re passionate fans.
There’s a strong fan culture surrounding the sport. Fans can watch YouTube analysis videos, join online communities, back their favorite fighters to cause an upset using a betting offer or play UFC-themed games.
In other words, there is a lot of material and activities that fans can engage in beyond simply watching the action. Indeed, it’s that aspect that has arguably given the sport the edge over boxing.
The Decline of Boxing
Talking of boxing, there’s no avoiding the fact that UFC’s rise has been helped significantly by the decline of boxing.
It’s usually only possible for there to be one hugely popular combat sport, and, at that moment, that title is held by the UFC.
Boxing has been going through an unusually difficult period over the past ten years, with an absence of heavyweight superstars (in the style of Mike Tyson et al.) contributing to a largely uninteresting landscape.
That could change in the future, but for now, people are more likely to tune into the exciting world offered by the UFC rather than watch a low-quality boxing bout.
UFC is a great example of good planning coming to fruition. It’s incredible to think about now, but back in 2001, the franchise was bought for a mere $2 million.
The franchise would probably still be worth only that amount if it hadn’t been for the outstanding leadership and management of Dana White and his colleagues.
They got to work on cleaning up the sport, helping to make it more professional and more viewer-friendly. More than twenty years later, we can see that they were very successful in doing so.
A Global Sport
The UFC couldn’t have reached its current level if interest was limited to the United States.
Fortunately for the UFC, the combat sport has global appeal. Indeed, take a look at the roster of fighters under contract at UFC, and you’ll see names from all over the globe.
While it perhaps wasn’t the primary reason, this approach has a big marketing impact, because if you sign a fighter from country X, you’ll naturally attract a lot of new viewers from that region.
There’s a universal appeal about the UFC because it doesn’t matter about the language or background of the fighter; if they can fight well, they’re in.
Time and Acceptance
Finally, the UFC has benefitted from time. It’s been around for a couple of decades, and while the initial start may have been slow, we’ve reached a point where people are simply accustomed to the sport. It’s managed to gain credibility just by going through its growing pains and sticking around for long enough for people to take notice to note that they’re not going away anytime soon.