SBD/Issue 205/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Fighting For Approval: UFC 100 Shows MMA Has Mainstream Appeal

Some Feel Lesnar's (r) Post-Fight Antics
Hurt Mainstream Appeal Of MMA
MMA is a sport "on the move" after Saturday's UFC 100 event, which drew a sold-out crowd to the Mandalay Bay Events Center and a $5.1M live gate, according to the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan. The sport is getting "attention in national publications," and results from Saturday's card "were up on the marquee on that ABC headquarters building." UFC is "not going to ever be ... on the par with our big four mainstream sports," but it is "going to be a very prominent niche player for a while because it does appeal to a segment.” UFC 100 is speculated to have earned around 1.5 million PPV buys, and Ryan said, "Those buys are hard to ignore. That’s on the par with some of the great boxing buys" ("PTI," ESPN, 7/13). ESPN's Tony Reali said 1.5 million buys is "approaching De La Hoya territory. That’s approaching Tyson vs. Holyfield. Those are big numbers.” FanHouse.com's Jay Mariotti said UFC is "going to be around," and it is a "sport we’re all going to have to accept." However, heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar after his match Saturday taunted his opponent and insulted a UFC sponsor, and Mariotti said, "They’re hurting their mainstream appeal when the face of your sport is acting like a guy who doesn’t make it a sport." FanHouse.com's Kevin Blackistone added, "If you think this is going to pull in the casual fan, I think you’re not thinking correctly about whatever this sport is" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/13). In Sacramento, Bill Bradley writes UFC 100 should have been MMA's "crowning glory,” as the sport “hoped to claim it has passed boxing in the American sports landscape.” However, MMA, which had “taken two steps forward,” now has to “take a step back” due to Lesnar's post-fight antics (SACRAMENTO BEE, 7/14).

THE NEXT BIG THING: ESPN’s J.A. Adande said having Lesnar as the new face of UFC is a "good thing" for the sport. Adande: "The premier teams in other sports, like the Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys -- people love them or hate them. A lot of people love to hate them, but the sport is always better off when they’re in contention because they drive ratings. I think you have this character now, this evil figure that people are going to relate to one way or the other, but they’re intrigued and the thing is people are recognizable now." Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "Here is a guy that was in (professional) wrestling. He does understand entertainment. You may not want that as part of your sport, but he knows that’s the way they’re going to get attention. ... That’s what’s going to rise this sport" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/13). In St. Paul, Bob Sansevere writes, “I’m a lot more interested in the UFC because Lesnar is such a colorful character” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/14). ESPN’s Colin Cowherd: "It’s leading our show. It helped" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 7/13). The Boston Globe's Ryan: "If suddenly an outsized personality with some legitimacy ... if he’s the guy that puts you over the top to start, hey, you worry about cleaning up the mess later.” But ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "They don’t want the whole ‘good guy, bad guy’ thing. So maybe that’s not central to it” ("PTI," ESPN, 7/13).

AS GOOD AS IT WILL GET? CBSSPORTS.com's Ray Ratto wrote under the header, "MMA Will Remain A Niche Sport, And The Niche Is Full." Ratto: "MMA has found its niche, and UFC 100 was the top end of that.” The event was as “big a card as could be constructed,” and UFC President Dana White had “months to make it right.” Ratto: "By most analyses by MMA fans, he did. For those who aren't MMA fans, it doesn’t matter." There is a “ceiling for every sport, and right now the only one that seems to be picking up steam in the U.S. is international pro soccer. ... This, we’d be willing to bet, is MMA’s ceiling” (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/13).

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