MMMA – Mainstream Mixed Martial Arts? Not so, says UFC boss

Through the cultural fabric of western society, MMA is still an oddity.

Consider this scenario: Jon Jones and Snookie arrive at a VIP lounge door at the same time. Who gets in? With Jones, the doorman would have to check if he’s on the list. Snookie just has to show up. Unless the doorman fits the profile (know what I mean?), it’s Jersey Shore over the NY kid. It’s dirty bars before armbars.

It may be unfortunate but it is true.

Dana White knows as much. As the CEO of the largest MMA promotion on the planet, its his job. His job is also to promote so it’s rare for anything to come out of his mouth to be straight truth, no spin; all honesty, no hype. That is why his recent comments point to a reality most fans know but few admit: MMA is has still not sailed into the mainstream.

As reported by Marc Raimondi of Fox Sports, White recounted a story about attending the New England Partriots against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A casual conversation with a nearby fan – a 30-something male (cough, fits the profile) – who had no idea what the UFC, no idea who Jon Jones was or that Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones was related to the champ. The man even queried White if the promotion was regional.

There you have it. The average sports fan doesn’t know about MMA. Quite (hardly) a surprise. This is why the move to Fox was a massive arrangement.

The issue is that the partnership hardly won enough respect by most mainstream media. When it happened, I spoke to a local sports radio host who said, ‘The UFC is the ugly girl at the party – it’s gone mainstream.’ Even in saying this, the host couldn’t name three fighters.

Mainstream sports media is a top-heavy sector, run by baby boomers who adhere to the philosopher Thomas Hobbes and think MMA is, ‘…solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’ Most of these individuals understand the monetary power of the sport and realize it continues to grow but are scared to accept it. They hide behind how it doesn’t whet their tastes. They choose not to talk about.

It is a condescending ignorance. The sport will continue to grow because it’s fan-base is young and diverse. Like most things, eventually there will be an audience size too large to ignore. The question of whether it reaches mainstream acceptance will be if an educated segment grows within the media, so that those speaking to fans about the sport are educated and enthusiastic.

When that happens, Dana White won’t be able to go to a football game – he’ll be too recognized.


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