How can UFC continue to grow?

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) came into the mainstream with so much success it has become one of the largest and most popular mixed martial arts events on the planet.

MMA has evolved over time from the organised chaos of carnage to become a popular fighting tournament with the creation of UFC back in 1993. The event then started as an eight man tournament between fighters of different disciplines fought in the octagon ring.

Those early fights are difficult to associate with the sport now. There were no weight classes, judges or time limits. This almost no rule format was a hit with fans and its popularity enabled the organisers to attract bigger names and a larger roster.

The key milestones in the growth of the UFC coincide with turn of the millennium. The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board began regulating all fights by introducing the Unified Rules of MMA. The safety of the fighters helped build the reputation of the brand and the sport as a whole.

From here the UFC grew and attracted more fighters from around the world. The start saw a US focus but with the increased professionalism and popularity more fighters from around the world were attracted. Betting on UFC from here grew as a popular market with a more professional approach and wider audiences.

By 2012 MMA was a fully recognised and respected sport and the UFC was able to rival competitors such as boxing for pay-per-view numbers. By 2019 the UFC reportedly broke their financial records and brought in revenue of around $900 million. This increase in revenue for the UFC was brought in by offering a number of free-to-air cards with top fighters which helped to secure the investment of viewers in to the pay-per-view events.

Moving across in to new markets helped with the rapid rise in popularity, viewing figures and income. Fights have been organised in the UK and Europe, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. These international events as well as the international fighters have cemented its success in certain markets.

Connor McGregor success both in the octagon as well as in his marketing have helped draw in fans in the UK. Fights in the UK started in 2002 and once McGregor became a global star, the market was well on its way to becoming one of the most popular sports in the country.McGregor ruled the men’s card and in 2015 he and women’s champion Ronda Rousey made up 61% of the UFC’s PPV revenue.

Brazilian fighters, including Jose Aldo “Junior” and Fabricio “VaiCavalo” Werdum, have helped in making Brazil one of the biggest markets in Latin America. More and more fighters from Brazil are competing in the UFC making it the second highest nationality of fighters behind the US.

Foe the UFC to continue to grow its brand internationally they have looked to bring fights around the world bringing a wider audience. Stars have been able to attract followers through social media and marketing campaigns which have drawn people in to the UFC through following fighters even before seeing fights.

Champions from new countries are able to increase viewership in their markets. Current UFC Heavyweight Champion is a Cameroonian fighter who grew up in France called . He arrived in Paris with nothing; he was homeless and looked to pursue a career in MMA. Being recorded as the hardest puncher in UFC history has made him a popular figure and one that seems to be in place to become a big star in the sport.

With a wider range of fighters from different nationalities and disciplines, the interest globally is increasing. For fans from different countries being able to support a local fighter is often a big draw to sports fans. The new styles of fighting are also a huge draw to those, especially keen fans, who are able to understand the differences and how they affect each fighter.

Betting in UFC has gone through many changes with the increased weight classes and larger fight cards on events.  There are a number of main fights as well as prelims which give punters a chance to find the fighters they are confident in backing.

With the peaks and troughs of undisputable stars in each weight class, there are often new fighters coming through and causing upsets. The way new fighters are coming in to the UFC and challenging experienced fighters gives those with a keen eye on the sport the opportunity to look out for those longer odds.

There is plenty of momentum behind the UFC with viewership figures soaring, even over the past two years. Even during the Covid19 pandemic, three events were put on which ranked in the top five viewership figures while being broadcasted on ESPN through pay-per-view. There have been a total of 22.7 million viewers on ESPN networks since the pandemic began.

The growth of the sport can continue further since the introduction of the female fighting with the fight between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche back in 2013 having kicked off the women’s category. With males 18-35 being the biggest viewing demographic, the introduction and continued publicity of the women’s titles can help bring more female viewers with exciting and talented role models to support.

Expanding the viewer demographic will be a key part of UFC’s continual growth and something which will need to be focused upon as it looks to keep up its ever-growing reputation.

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