Mixed Martial Arts, also known as MMA is a full-contact combat sport in which competitors strike one another and grapple with opponents. The sport is one of the more brutal forms of combat sport and has attracted controversy across the world. The sport gained prominence and mainstream recognition following the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the premiere MMA professional organization. In recent years, MMA has evolved and developed into a hugely successful business model, in the same vein that boxing used to be. This has seen a surge in popularity in the sport, as well as more exposure for fighters. After reforming some of its rules, the UFC became much more mainstream competition and began to dominate pay-per-view. In 2017, MMA is arguably the growth sport in the world right now, and we have even seen an MMA fighter Conor McGregor, pitted against professional boxer Floyd Mayweather. This seems to show the pinnacle of how far MMA has come over the years, so why is is so popular? Well, there are a few reasons we could look at to explain the rise of MMA around the world.
Decline of boxing
One of the biggest reasons cited for the growth of MMA around the world has been the decline of boxing as a sport. Back in the ‘80s, ‘90’s, and the early ‘00s, boxing was one of the biggest sports on the planet. Heavyweight bouts attracted millions of viewers worldwide and generated hundreds of millions of dollars. Match ups like Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis vs. Vitali Klitschko had boxing fans across the world purring.
However, following the retirement of these top fighters, and a greater emphasis on money, boxing has alienated a lot of its audience. There has, arguably, not been a great world heavyweight champion since Lewis, though Anthony Joshua is making a good claim for that honor. People began to lose interest at the lack of competition, and focus on money, and many of boxing’s audience have shifted over to MMA.
Another reason behind the growth and success of MMA has been the fact that the sport has enjoyed more exposure. This has a lot to do with a number of changes the UFC brought about. When MMA first went mainstream, it was seen as being too violent, and 36 states banned it for being too violent. This led the UFC to take action and look at removing the less palatable elements of many of their fights. This led to a revamp of many of the rules, and the introduction of five-minute rounds.
These changes turned MMA into much more of a sport and ensured there would be more exposure. For MMA fighter Ken Shamrock was one of the people responsible for implementing many of the changes prevalent in the sport today. This is a big part of what took MMA much more mainstream, resulting in increased exposure, and generating a much larger audience than it had enjoyed before.
They say no man can be bigger than a sport. Though, if there were to be a man who transcended their sport in 2017 it would be Conor McGregor. The loud-mouthed Irishman can be credited with doing more to raise the profile of modern MMA than perhaps anyone else in the world. The mercurial and outspoken McGregor, in addition to being a fantastic competitor, also knows how to draw a crowd. His press conferences became a joy, and his penchant for rubbing other fighters up the wrong way captivated audiences. Indeed, such is McGregor's profile in the sport, and in the modern world, that he was able to secure a boxing bout with the undisputed Floyd Mayweather. Of course, as we know, McGregor lost the fight, but he does seem to have designs on conquering the boxing world as well as the MMA one.
There are a lot of reasons behind the rise of MMA around the world, and these are three of the biggest. It looks as though the sport is only going to increase in popularity too, especially as McGregor’s star is on the rise, and the sport is looking to take even more market share away from boxing. MMA just has to be careful that it doesn't become all about money, or it could go the same route as boxing.