MMA in the Media: Seattle Times

Posted: March 24, 2011 in Local MMA, Marketing, PR, UFC

Every now and then I’ll post a piece from mainstream media to showcase either the sports growth or its growing acceptance.  The below piece from The Seattle Times is a great read and showcases exactly what I try to highlight here at Mixed Marketing Arts.  MMA is here to stay, it’s legit – and it’s for the martial art educated,  not just for the bloodthirsty.

One quote put it best “The UFC has evolved into a bona fide sport. A violent, physical sport, but a sport practiced by incredible athletes who train across different disciplines from wrestling to jiu-jitsu to Muay Thai boxing.”

The piece is embedded below and can also be found here.

Welcome to the Octagon: How UFC stole the hearts of America’s young men

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which comes to Seattle on Saturday night, has grown from an ultraviolent novelty to a full-blown phenomenon, thanks to foresight, luck and TV.

By Danny O’Neil Seattle Times staff reporter

The sun is setting on the first Saturday of the NCAA tournament, and Jillian’s on South Lake Union is packed.
This is not surprising. The reason, however, is. Because here — in the midst of college basketball’s high holy season — most of the 43 televisions are tuned to the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s pay-per-view event, including the 12-foot HD projection screen in the main bar. No wait, especially the 12-foot screen.

I was not just among the UFC fans, who’ve paid the $10 cover. I am one of those UFC fans. I don’t have a single tattoo, haven’t been in an honest-to-goodness fight since fourth grade and have begun wearing neckties with regularity. Still, I’m a UFC fan who knows the fighters and can identify the difference between an Anaconda choke and a Kimura.

On Saturday, I waded hip deep into a pool of hundreds of fellow fight fans at Jillian’s, wearing orange wristbands to denote we paid the $10 cover charge. A bargain, considering it cost $44.99 to buy the bout at home on pay-per-view.

Welcome to the Octagon, the name for the eight-sided vinyl-mesh cage where UFC fights take place. The brand has become so dominant in this country that it is often used as a synonym for the overall sport of mixed-martial arts (MMA). Kind of like Kleenex is to facial tissue.

The sport that was once banned in as many as 36 states is reformed, revived and now stands as one of the most popular among young American men. The UFC will hold its first Seattle event Saturday at KeyArena, and there will be fans. Lots of them. More than 14,000 tickets have already been sold, and the event will be aired nationally by Spike-TV.

The surge in the UFC’s popularity goes back to 2005, which was when Spike started carrying the program. Those two facts are not a coincidence.

“We were the right network at the right time with the right audience,” said Brian Diamond, a Spike executive. “The UFC was the right sport.”

Turn up your nose if you want. Pine away for the sweet science of boxing or decry the violence in the cage, but don’t think this is some renegade sport staged in smoky basements or rural casinos. UFC has come a long way from back in 1993, when it was born as a one-night event to crown the best fighting style. It was as much ultraviolent novelty as competition. “There are no rules!” was the motto. No weight classes, either, and in one bout a large Sumo wrestler was kicked in the face. The result was a knockout and a tooth left in the foot of the victor.

There are rules now. Lots of them. You can’t kick or knee the head of a downed opponent. Eye gouging is verboten. So is hair pulling or “digital manipulation,” which is a fancy way of describing an attempt to twist an opponent’s fingers until they break.

Just 10 years ago, this was a debt-ridden enterprise staging events in Mississippi casinos, Iowa and Wyoming. It sold for about $2 million in 2001. It’s now estimated to be worth more than $1 billion. The sport has been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, its top fighters command six-figure purses and its events have had live gates of more than $5 million.

As boxing has become mired in an increasingly murky mix of alphabet-soup commissions, mixed-martial arts has emerged as the combat sport of choice for a younger generation.

“We put on the fights that people want to see,” said Dana White, UFC president.

The best fighters in each weight class not only fight regularly, they fight each other, a wonderfully exciting concept. Next month in Toronto, the UFC’s pay-per-view event will have more than 50,000 fans in attendance.

It’s still a niche sport in one respect: You’re either a fight fan or you’re not. You’re either OK watching someone knocked unconscious or you’re not. But whatever your proclivities, know that the UFC has gone from having a toehold among men ages 18 to 34 to having them in a headlock. It has attracted more viewers from that demographic in head-to-head timeslots with playoff games in both the NBA and Major League Baseball, and it has done that repeatedly.

The UFC has evolved into a bona fide sport. A violent, physical sport, but a sport practiced by incredible athletes who train across different disciplines from wrestling to jiu-jitsu to Muay Thai boxing.

Last Saturday’s event was headlined by Jon “Bones” Jones and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, two of the elite strikers in the world. In layman’s terms, that means they are men known for the variety of ways they use their elbows and fists, knees and feet to inflict bodily damage on an opponent.

And for three rounds, Jones administered a beating that was shocking in its one-sidedness. The result: a technical knockout that left Rua’s right eye swollen shut, Jones as the light heavyweight champion and fans at Jillian’s cheering.

The easy thing at this point would be to make some alliterative references to tattoos and testosterone in the crowd, and talk about the hint of bloodlust swelling in the room.

But that’s not what I saw. There were fewer tattoos, absolutely no fights in the crowd and more women than I ever expected. Two couples occupied the table closest to me, looking very much like a double date.

It was the kind of crowd you’d expect to see at a sports bar on a Saturday night in March. It’s just that the sport involved punches instead of passes and bruises instead of baskets.

Welcome to the Octagon, Seattle.

  1. […] pieces I am looking for.  I enjoy the 101 pieces as much as the next person (see here for example), but this shows mainstream audiences something different.  They showcase the economic […]

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