OFF INTO THE WILD WET YONDER How does this...
MMA Proving to Be a Global Sporting Powerhouse
Along with the incredible athleticism on display, the rise of mixed martial arts (MMA) has been nothing short of spectacular.
Growing a new sport is by no means easy, even at a local level. Take for example soccer (or football everywhere else) in the USA, individuals, organizations, and corporations have been trying to help the sport grow for decades with only meager examples of success here and there.
The most recent attempt that comes to mind was in 2007. The L.A. Galaxy picked up an aged and peaked David Beckham in a 5 year deal worth an estimated US$32.5 million (Beckham’s PR team at the time created a rumor that it was worth upwards of US$250 million). Although, Galaxy’s investment did pay financial dividends for the team, and won them a domestic championship, it didn’t honestly help the sport grow all that much throughout the country.
MMA on the other hand, a sport still not sanctioned, and even banned, in several US states (including New York) for its brutal reputation (unfairly, by the way) has grown to be quite the sports juggernaut domestically and something to admire. The American based UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) has already broken PPV (pay per view) records, and landed a seven year deal with FOX Sports television worth an estimated US$700 million.
Internationally the sport has done well, too. In some Asian markets like Japan and South Korea, MMA was already an established sports product. But more interestingly, it has grown leaps and bounds into many notoriously difficult or unique markets like the UAE, China, ASEAN, Russia, Pakistan, and now even progressive Sweden has MMA fever, too—thanks to Alexander Gustafsson, a 6’4”, blonde haired, Swede that goes by the nickname “the Mauler,” who just recently lost a controversial unanimous decision to the LHW champion, Jon Jones.
All these countries have one thing in common, they love the “beautiful game” (soccer/football), but apparently they enjoy professional combat sports, too.
This success has given rise to something else too, which also happens to be extremely important to the growth and health of the sport… the MMA gym or “dojo.” Around the globe, MMA gyms are starting to dot urban and rural landscapes—not since Bruce Lee hit the scenes in the ‘60s and ‘70s has martial arts seen its popularity grow so exponentially.
The sport has even taken off with the female demographic, too. More and more females are watching, training, and even competing in all sorts of combat sports. Moreover, the popularity, professionalism, and, of course, financial incentives of this new sport allows a whole new group of athletes to actually make a career out of the sport they love. Wrestlers, Judokas, and other martial artists, now have a place to make a career after University and/or the Olympics—not dissimilar to other professional athletes.
The doors are wide open for anyone now, and the buzz has never been better. Countries everywhere are hopping on board of this exciting sport, and soon we may even see world champions in the USA from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Poland, maybe even Mexico—if they can find room in their hearts for something other than boxing.
Take a few minutes and watch this video about a small gym and team in Cambodia. It goes to show the global potential MMA has, and the draw it has on fans and competitors alike. A budding new champion is sweating, kicking, punching, and grappling in a small, relatively unknown, town or city right now waiting for his/her chance for the bright lights of the major leagues of mixed martial arts.