Media Watch: Do Fans Hope MMA Promoters Fail?
By Jesse Heitz
While completing my daily ritual of sifting through the top stories circulating about the MMA news cycle, one editorial in particular caught my attention. I was rather struck by the issue this piece raised. So struck, that I’m going to write about it today.
In an article released by cagepotato.com, the author synthesized a growing phenomenon in MMA, an appreciable sense of pleasure at the failure of any MMA promotion not named UFC. In the piece, MMAJunkie’s Ben Fowlkes was quoted as saying,
“You make a fair point about the undercurrent of glee in the response to every new Bellator setback. It reminds me of the late IFL CEO Jay Larkin, who, when convening a conference call to essentially sound the death knell for that organization, bitterly remarked that it seemed to be the most interest the MMA media had ever shown in an IFL announcement. In other words, it’s not just Bellator feeling that sting. As much as MMA seems to recognize the need for a serious competitor to the UFC, it also seems to love to watch those contenders rise and fall. I’m not sure I know why that is, but I do know that, if you are one of those contenders, you don’t help the situation by complaining about it.”
Now I’ll agree that there seems to be little noticeable outrage or any sort of widespread weeping and gnashing of teeth when a smaller promotion runs into trouble or closes its doors. However, I don’t accept the premise that the MMA community revels in the failure of MMA promotions. For example, I remember widespread concern when Pride’s position became untenable in the middle of the last decade. I remember even more grief when it was acquired by Zuffa and genuine sorrow when it held its final event.
Are people biased towards the UFC—including the MMA media? You bet. It was the first true promotion, and it weathered the storm during the sport’s dark ages. It has almost singlehandedly propelled the sport into every conceivable market. It has the resources to put on shows worth the price of admission. Quite simply it’s the clear-cut leader in the industry, an identity which naturally attracts followers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no MMA snob. I enjoy MMA at every level. However, I’m not foolish enough to think that every single MMA consumer is a die-hard fan. In fact, I think that it’s quite a minority of the overall MMA community that are die-hards. So it comes as little surprise that the casual viewer, wooed by the spectacle routinely shown by the UFC, have no tears to shed when Bellator or the World Series of Fighting stumble.
I think many of us serious fans long for the days when there was no discernible dominant promotion. We revere the days of the UFC vs. Pride FC when dueling rosters chalked full of premier talent placed the fan in a position of strength. As such, we absolutely want a rival to the UFC to rise from the ashes. Yet does the casual fan—who I suspect due to sheer numbers actually drive the sport’s bottom line, really care about such competition, or do they just want a few hours of top grade entertainment for a few hours now and again?