MMA (or is it UFC?) continues to defy odds with yearly growth
How is this possible?
Wall Street is a mess. Main Street is even messier. The U.S. jobless rate has hit a 14-year high, the country is swimming in a $455 billion federal deficit, and even the
In sports, the cater-to-the-wealthy PGA Tour is struggling as its top advertisers die off. FIFA, the governing body for international soccer, the most expansive sport in the world, has warned that levels in debt have become unsustainable (Manchester United is swimming in US$1.3-plus billion of debt.) College and high school athletic departments are making cuts to even their top sports, the NBA has made major staff cuts and has eliminated the middlemen for much of its marketing ventures.
NASCAR is losing fans as the economy struggles and
And while everyone fears the dreaded D-word, or R-word, some have already nicknamed our recent past "The 2008 Crash."
However, mixed martial arts, a sport still unaccepted and unheard of by many, continues to grow. While it may not be booming like it was in recent years, the fringe sport still holding the title of "human cockfighting" (thank you,
All from a sport that still isn't sanctioned in all 50 states.
"People want to be entertained, regardless," said Couture, who has held UFC titles in two weight classes and, in this past year alone, has starred in two movies, a video game, penned a
On Nov. 10, the UFC released an economic impact report to support its push for sanctioning in New York.
"In the last 15 years, it has grown into an international phenomenon," said New York State Senator
According to the
But the numbers that are often overlooked but nonetheless striking, are live ticket sales. With three more shows set before year's end, the UFC will have hosted 20 events this year. With ticket prices for a live UFC event in 2007 averaging $250, and thousands selling per event ... well, you do the math.
The promotion's first event (which is also it's first event in Dublin, Ireland) of the new year,
Nine fights, $25 million. Bargain.
"There is a compelling argument that MMA has already eclipsed boxing and will likely do the same to hockey by mid-2009," said
MMA has enjoyed enough "strong growth" to call itself "the fastest growing sport in America" and appear credible in doing so. But its success has come with a twist:
White, with casino magnates
Well, aside from their lucrative pay-per-view showings, live events and sponsorship and licensing agreements, it's limited its fighters' salaries. While rivaling boxing for mainstream attention and revenue, the UFC's payouts pale in comparison to those of boxers. Big-namers like
Smaller promotions have fallen almost as fast as they have risen, making the Zuffa organization the main player in the game. Along with EliteXC's recent demise, the International Fight League drowned in debt in September, just two years after the company went public.
Correlating the struggles of upstart promotions to the current economic state is all too easy. And it may be entirely out of line.
"I think it's mismanagement, absolutely," said Affliction Vice President
Now, it seems the top contenders to rival the kingpin UFC are Affliction and Strikeforce. Affliction is scheduled to put on its second event Jan. 24, though it, too, has been rumored to be struggling. Strikeforce, under the leadership of
Major money men and sports enthusiasts, from Trump to the president of Coach handbags,
"The sport is absolutely still growing -- I think the network television shows have definitely helped it, and the exposure from companies like Strikeforce, obviously the UFC, us, EliteXC have helped," Atencio said. "The sport has jumped leaps and bounds, but with the economy, it's going to take a little bit more work. I think it's slowly building new fans, but there are still a lot of people that don't understand it completely. But 2007, 2008, they were great years."