With the meteoric rise, seemingly at the same rate as Bieber Fever, in popularity, mixed martial arts is rapidly becoming a staple in American homes. Numerous studies have shown that MMA is winning over the coveted and competitive 18- to 35-year-old male demographic in the United States. All this is pointing to one inevitability — mixed martial arts is here to stay. So what does that mean for me?
Currently, there are two major schools of thought regarding MMA. And, like reading a multiple-choice question only to know the answer before finishing it, I’m sure the two prevailing opinions are easy to formulate.
On one hand, there’s the opinion that MMA is a barbaric, no-holds-barred death match. This viewpoint holds to a belief that the sport relies, solely, on a primitive, even a coliseumlike, environment to attract fans and fighters alike. While I understand the basic underlying concern, unlike the days of unsanctioned, bare-knuckled cage fights, the world of mixed martial arts has undergone a serious mainstream transformation.
On the opposite end of the MMA spectrum, there are those who affectionately dub themselves the hard-core fans. Although the definition is probably as ambiguous as the beloved Saturday Night Live character “It’s Pat,” the basic premise behind their view of MMA is the same — more, more and more. And here, on this side of the fence, is where I graze.
I’ve been an avid observer and supporter of mixed martial arts for over 12 years now. In that time, as the sport has evolved, the fan in me has evolved as well. Whether training, albeit briefly, in Brazilian jujitsu at Redemption BJJ (a local Kenai Peninsula gym), discussing MMA on a weekly iTunes podcast called “The Undercard” or writing about the sport, I believe there are two distinctive reasons MMA will continue to grow in popularity. Both distinctive characteristics fall under the same banner — entertainment.
MMA is nothing if not exciting and dynamic. Where else can one find 15 or 25 minutes (depending on the bout) of continuous, nonstop action? Where one mistake or, if you’re the inherent winner, one calculated finish could end the match. It’s the excitement which markets the sport of mixed martial arts so well to the 18 through 35 male demographic.
Finally, it’s the thrill of the unknown that entices and captivates the MMA viewer. In sports such as football, basketball or baseball, we call it parity. In mixed martial arts, it’s reality.
Similar to a suspenseful horror movie, where we clearly know what the result of hiding in a closet will be, MMA viewers are consistently on the edge of their seat awaiting every moment of a bout. The underlying tension creates both meaning and investment between the viewer and the sport.
Unlike the brevity of such acts as Milli Vanilli, Vanilla Ice, Chumbawamba and the guys that brought us “Who Let the Dogs Out?” mixed martial arts will survive and thrive well past the time frame of the above-mentioned one-hit wonders. Which brings me back to the original question, what does this mean for me? In short, this sport is here to stay and I believe it’s time to start embracing it.
Scott Levesque writes a weekly column for the Clarion on mixed martial arts. He will cover MMA at the local, state and national levels. His handle on Twitter is @scottlevesque.