For two decades, Dana White has insisted that his sport would become the world’s biggest. Now, he has the spotlight to commensurate his ambitions. White’s attempts to keep fights going during the pandemic have drawn rebukes from powerful politicians and from his most important corporate partners.
Many sports fans on Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and other forums have cheered on the U.F.C.’s gung-ho determination to fight on. The combat sport has a unique and enduring appeal to Americans that were there before this pandemic, and that will be there after it.
UFC President Dana White in a recent interview with Fox Sports talked about the success of MMA fighting during the pandemic. He said, “One of the things I’ve tried to do is stay out of politics. When people tune in to watch sports they don’t want to hear that crap. When you turn on UFC we never talk about Covid or politics. Obviously, every fighter has his or her belief and we don’t try to change that. We are the first sport to have live indoor events at full capacity.”
MMA increasingly finds itself a greater hit with television companies. For its dramatic theatre and propensity for going viral on social media. In 2020, as the planet was slowly grinding to a halt, the UFC won hands down. The Middle East, and Abu Dhabi in particular, was one of its safe-havens. The UFC, which, again, began as an experiment, has become a multi-billion dollar industry.
2020 might have brought an imperfect storm to our societies. But “timing” happens to be everything in business, sport, and, indeed, life.
The evolution of the UFC and the sport of MMA into a global phenomenon contains a narrative for these very bizarre modern times. Through the marriage of an endless appetite for sports entertainment, the growth of social media, and a willingness by the sport’s architects to forge on through the Covid-19 crisis.
MMA has a loyal fan base who follow its every detail, many of whom have little interest in other sports. The fans are avid, even rabid, at times, and as opinionated as some of its smack-talking fighters. In these times, UFC has provided entertainment to millions of fans who have run out of Netflix shows to binge on. Like it or not, the fighting arts of MMA are here to stay.
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