Many fans and insiders refer to Mixed Martial Arts as “the fastest growing sport in the world”, and with the star-studded Ultimate Fighting Championship promotion leading the way, the MMA explosion continues to reach new and staggering heights. In 2008, Forbes Magazine valued the UFC at right around one billion dollars, but according to a new interview, that figure has nearly tripled in the last two years.
In a recent interview with the Indianapolis Star to promote the then-upcoming UFC 119 “Mir vs. Cro Cop” event, here’s what UFC President Dana White had to say on the matter: “The company is worth about $2.5 billion… I’ve been saying this since day one, and people really thought I was a lunatic, that this could be the biggest sport in the world. What I am surprised about is how fast this has happened. We haven’t even scratched the surface for how big this thing is going to be. I don’t consider us mainstream yet. Mainstream, to me, is if you walked out into the main street of any major city in America and asked them what “American Idol” is. Everyone can tell you what “American Idol” is. Not everyone can tell you what UFC is…Any time we go to a new market, it’s so much fun. When those [fans] leave, they will go infect another 10 to 15 people with what they saw there that night. That’s how this whole buzz keeps rolling. I call it spreading the virus.”
And to think, in that same article Dana White admits that at one point the UFC was $44,000,000 in debt at one point. I think Dana White is correct when he says that the UFC isn’t fully “mainstream” yet, but the leaps and bounds it’s taken towards that goal in the last several years have been nothing short of miraculous. This was literally a sport that was on death’s door in the US. I know that a lot of people, including some prominent MMA journalists, love to poke holes in Dana’s “biggest sport in the world” dream/ideal, but I honestly agree with him on that too.
It probably won’t happen anytime soon, despite the all the recent developments that have contributed to the MMA explosion. It’s a goal that is quite a ways away, but it’s honestly one I believe in. I agree with White on this one: fighting transcends all boundaries. Everyone can understand and enjoy a good fight. It’s real, it’s dramatic, it’s as exciting as anything. A good victory can send you soaring; a big loss can break your heart. If you embrace the sport, the level of emotional attachment to your favorite fighter can rival that of any other team-based or individual sport.
The future looks bright for MMA as a whole, but especially for the UFC. Even with a few lackluster duds here and there, there’s absolutely no way you’ll convince me that a promotion puts on better shows than the UFC on an average basis. The UFC strives to give us the best matches possible, and even if the fighters themselves fail to live up to expectations, the promotion should be commended and applauded for trying their hardest to give us our money’s worth. The UFC isn’t going anywhere anytime soon…except up, that is.
And what about you, fans and friends? What do you think of the UFC’s continued growth, and where do you see the promotion heading in the future?