Mixed Martial Arts is the fastest growing sport, but it is a sport that is still in its infancy. If MMA wants to become mainstream and be respected as a sport it’s up to the MMA fans themselves to respect the sport first.
Many of the MMA fans today are casual fans. These fans lack the basic knowledge and understanding of the sport. They buy the PPV events when Brock Lesnar, GSP, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell or some other high profile fighter is on the card. They are intrigued by the commercials and fanfare that spreads throughout the internet. These are the same fans that ‘boo’ when the fight goes to the ground or when fighters jockey for clinch control. It’s all about understanding what MMA is all about. Not every fight needs to end in a devastating KO or a slick submission.
In boxing you see many commentators, analysts, and fans talk about the science of boxing. They talk about the boxer’s hand speed, ring control, and footwork. Fights that end in KOs are exciting, but it’s not what boxing is all about. In football, you hear about accuracy of a QB, speed of a player, and hands of a receiver. It’s the skill of a player or a record of a team that matters. Not whether or not there were bone crushing tackles or crazy triple reverse trick plays were in a game. Many life-long football fans loves the sport as a whole, and this passion for it is what makes football the most popular sport in the US.
MMA, like other sports, is about having the better strategy, skill, and out-pointing your opponent. Understanding why and how a fighter wins a fight should be just important to a fan as seeing exciting fights, but that’s not the case for today’s fans. Fans have unrealistic expectation of fights and fighters. Every fighter goes out to do their best and to win as convincingly as possible, but it doesn’t always happen. Why? Because there’s this thing called an opponent that is always constantly defending themselves. Fans fail to comprehend this. You can see in many of the popular forums where people talk trash about fighters. You see, “Fighter X sucks because he doesn’t finish fights” or “I don’t like Fighter Z because he just lays and prays” this goes to show those fans don’t understand “strategy” and the skill that is involved in MMA. They don’t love the sport. They love spectacle moments that doesn’t truly represent MMA. And that is not what you call “being a fan”. Would you call a person a “hockey fan” if they only watch hockey games to see a brawl? Or call them a “NASCAR fan” if they only watch it for the spectacular crashes? I don’t think so. It’s unfortunate that majority of MMA fans have a misguided perception of MMA. It’s more unfortunate that it perpetuates to new fans which contributes to the sports slow inclination of maturity.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying MMA is doomed because of the ignorant fans. I believe it’s part of the growing pains of this fast growing sport. Just 10 years ago barely anyone knew what a 4 .oz glove looked like. Now, they sell those gloves at every sporting good store. I just hope the fans evolve with the sport, and one day in the future we can get away from the spectacle talk of the sport and get more into the art and science of it.