Fans of mixed martial arts sure have a lot to say. We talk excitedly with our friends about the great fight we watched and argue on message boards about who would win if Fedor fought Godzilla. And we become particularly vocal when politicians, famous boxers, or moms starts spouting off saying that MMA is not a sport or call it human cockfighting. And we digest a lot of content, which is the gas that keeps our motor mouth running. We read blog posts, listen to MMA radios shows, watch fights on the computer, on TV, at the bar.
But despite how dedicated we are to this amazing sport, the truth is that MMA struggles. It struggles for respect. It struggles for recognition. In many cities, states and countries it struggles to exist. But guess what, Sports Fans? You can do something about that. Here are some ideas.
1 ) Pony up. If you can’t afford the $50 for every UFC event then support the little guys. The cost of buying a regional pay-per-view is usually around $10. Regional promotions are the middle men between amateur events and the big show. Sure the quality of the stream may not be as good as a UFC or Strikeforce pay-per-view but what’s lacking in quality is often made up in quantity. I purchased AFC 3 on July 17th and they streamed 13 fights.
2 ) Support companies that support MMA. It was kind of easy for me to rag on TapOut when I saw them as just a big chain in a mutually beneficial relationship with the UFC juggernaut. And then I noticed that they sponsor local amateur fighters. Kids putting long hours in at the gym to fight for free and to whom a little corporate sponsorship goes a long way.
3 ) Go to local shows. I live in Vancouver where we’ve had one professional MMA event in 3 years. Fortunately, there are some well run amateur shows held periodically, which are always exciting. Sports are meant to be enjoyed live. Check out your local circuit.
4 ) If MMA if unsanctioned where you live, phone your local political representatives. Email them. Ask them their opinion on sanctioning the sport and let them know it’s important to you. Some of the councilors who voted to allow professional MMA in Vancouver in December had said less than a year before that they were against it. People bugged them and they changed their minds. Politicians do that.
5 ) Vote. This is always important, of course, but you need to pay special attention to what is happening with your local and/or federal representatives if MMA is unsanctioned in your city, state or province. When MMA was approved in Vancouver the vote was 6-3. Nine people decided whether this city would get live professional MMA and watch Cro-Cop, Chuck Liddell and Rory Macdonald in our backyard. The citizens of Vancouver voted in those 9 people. I just don’t know how much straighter I can draw the line.
6 ) Demand local media coverage. Sarah Kaufman is the belt wearing, number one ranked 135 female fighter in the world and a life long resident of Victoria, BC. The Victoria newspaper doesn’t tell their readers anything about her, and it isn’t because the readers wouldn’t care. When I write about Kaufman for the Vancouver Sun website, her articles rank among the top read for days in a row. Email your newspaper’s sports editor and tell him you want to know what’s going on with local MMA and request they cover it.
7 ) Represent the sport. People who are afraid of MMA think of it’s fans as gang bangers and hooligans. Macho, aggressive meatheads. I’m not asking that you wear collared shirts to the bar and golf clap your approval when your man wins, just look in the mirror and ask yourself how you are representing the sport.
8 ) Understand what opponents of mixed martial arts see. They see people trying to kill each other and young people getting excited about it. Young spectators who might be influenced by the violence they see and adrenaline they feel and look to take that out on someone. They see society going to hell. They see young athletes developing brain damage and then tax payers footing the medical bills. We can cut through these concerns using logic and fact, but not without first genuinely understanding the fear.
9 ) Get involved. Find out what it takes to become a judge and see if you can’t get started. Contact your local promotion and help out in exchange for behind the scenes access to events. Get creative and find out how to put your passion to use beyond arguing on message boards about the number one pound for pound fighter.
Or don’t do anything and just keep bitching amongst yourselves on the internet. But know that you have the power to affect the growth of the embattled sport you profess to love.