The high intensity of combat sports draws in a large audience. The availability and popularity of sports streaming can widen that access even further.
Combat sports have been recorded in history since at least 688 BCE. Boxing has its roots back in the fairgrounds of Victorian England, while wrestling goes even further to Greco-Roman times. Yet until the nineties, no sport had combined all these disciplines into a solitary combat tournament. Known as mixed martial arts (MMA), UFC would come to define the genre.
UFC is now one of the major global brands alongside names like the NFL, alongside fighters who are household names. How did combat sports become so popular?
Part of its success has been down to the charisma of many of its performers. The UFC allows the personalities of its fighters to shine, letting them argue and create spats between each other. This has catapulted many of them into global superstars and swelled the coffers of the UFC in the process.
ExpressVPN’s study describes the Conor McGregor effect. McGregor is equally known for his ‘bad boy’ persona and mixed martial arts talent. ExpressVPN lists several spikes in viewership before or after McGregor’s fights. When it comes to streaming, UFC has now surpassed most US sports, and when this is most noticeable when McGregor is involved.
UFC’s status as a global sport drives part of this appeal. Competitors travel from all over the globe, and people enjoy watching stars from their home countries compete, increasing their reach. Viral stars such as Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett take advantage of video clips going viral on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, drawing viewership from women who consider him a heartthrob.
The UFC president Dana White is polarising, but his success with the organization can never be underestimated. After moving to Vegas, he became a manager of UFC’s top stars. When the organization was up for sale, he enlisted Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta to back a bid to buy the company. Since then, he has taken the sport from strength to strength where other MMA organizations have failed, working closely with huge successes such as Floyd Mayweather and building UFC into a global success.
Dana White is closely involved with his stars, reported in online newspapers and social media. White is unafraid of controversy, signing viral stars such as Hasbulla. White works with headlines to draw more attention to fights, building this further when global audiences stream online.
The company was facing bankruptcy at one time, but his ideas pulled it back from the brink. High-profile fights with big stars like Ortiz and Rousey have turned fortunes around. He pursued other formats, such as the reality show The Ultimate Fighter, which is still shown on major networks like Hulu.
White took the UFC from the confines of American sports and brought it to a global stage. Many fights can be found on television networks around the world, with pay-per-view events played in bars across the globe. All of this has brought increased revenue, both from merchandise and licensing.
With a history of fights, verbal jabs exchanged online, and TikTok stardom, the UFC shows the Conor McGregor effect could recur with different stars at the forefront. Whether it’s Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett or the ‘bad boy’ Conor McGregor, the rise of sports streaming has been steady so far.