Can MMA Ever Become A Respected Sport?
Will MMA Ever Become A Well Respected Sport?
Mixed martial arts have come a long way from the days of UFC 1, when it was primarily seen as only a sideshow and not a legitimate sport. There have been many new changes, rules, and regulations that have transformed MMA from the Pay-Per-View circus act it used to be, into a full-blown, worldwide, ever-growing phenomenon. You can still watch MMA on Pay-Per-View, but it's expanded to the point where they've had tv deals with Spike TV, Fuel TV, and now Fox Sports 1. During any major MMA event today, you will now find recording artists, movie stars, tv stars, and professional athletes from other sports in attendance. MMA has really become a big deal.
In spite of all the latest successes of MMA, and it's constant growth, there still seems to be a lack of respect for the sport. You can seem to find the most discontent surprisingly, from the sport's own fans. MMA events, from Pay-Per-View, to free events on Fox, are the most booed sporting events on planet Earth. This seems to take place at every MMA event you can find on the planet. Now you have to wonder how this happens because the UFC alone does millions and millions of dollars per year in revenues from MMA events. Somebody must enjoy it.
MMA has come a long way from the time when the fights were unregulated and violent strikes like head butts, groin shots, knees to the head of a downed opponent, and other risky techniques were actually legal to use. They didn't have any weight classes back then, so you could find some 150 lb Karate guy taking on a 350 lb Sumo guy. It was ridiculously violent and it was considered to be more like a street brawl than a form of martial arts.
Well, the sport has evolved and mixed martial arts has undergone a serious overhaul. Although there are still many people today who still see it as simply "a cage brawl" or "cock fight", it's not the same thing that it used to be, and technically speaking, it is a more respectful and professional entity. The fighters approach to the sport is different now. You may still find some fights now and then that remind you of Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar, but overall, the fighters are more tactical and many of them don't train to come out and participate in an all out brawl. This may be a problem for some fans, who refuse to show respect for the improved tactical nature of MMA. Some of the fans may have got into the sport because of Griffin/Bonnar, and now expect a brawl every time, even though that is not realistic. This is where the lack of respect comes in, as MMA fans who continue to live in 1995 bring a low amount of patience and a "bloodsport" mentality to the live events. The fighters actually have strategies today, but sometimes having a strategy is not appealing to these types of fans who want fighters to "swing for the fences" from the very start.
So now you have maybe one or two fans, booing at the top of their lungs because there hasn't been a knockout in the first 5 seconds. Suddenly, the sentiment spreads all throughout the crowd. Now a newcomer tuning into the UFC for the 1st time thinks that there's something wrong because they hear all this booing, when there's really nothing wrong at all. If the people in the audience, who have paid money to be there and seem to be fans, are more vocal booing rather than showing respect, then why should anyone else tuning in have respect for MMA? They shouldn't, and they won't.
All fighters are different. They don't all fight the same and they shouldn't be expected to. If you have a wresting guy versus a jiu-jitsu guy, do you really expect them to be proficient in a stand up war? Not every fighter is a striker, and not every striker fights with reckless abandon. Today's MMA is completely different from the MMA of yesteryear. If MMA is ever going to be respected by the world, the die-hard MMA fans are going to have to show respect first.