Not long ago if you asked someone to name mainstream sports you would hear either football, basketball, or baseball almost exclusively. Any sport outside of those three were considered either a hobby, just for the Olympics, or a European sport. Becoming a professional athlete in any of these alternative sports was considered a pipe dream with no real future or financial stability. The face of mainstream sports has gone through a lot of changing over the last couple of decades. That list of sports has grown considerably. Alternative sports have taken the main stage. They have become popular, even addictive, because of the excitement, adrenaline content, and charismatic athletes. Mixed martial arts, or MMA, is leading the charge for mainstream attention. In fact, there are few that would argue that MMA is already mainstream.
There are several reasons that MMA and alternative sports have gained so much popularity. One of which can be attributed to the birth of extreme sports in the late seventies and early eighties. Adrenaline driven sports like freestyle skiing, snowboarding, and BASE jumping, all had their beginnings at this time. Their extreme nature made them interesting topics for journalist and TV shows. The pioneers in these sports helped paved the way for alternative sports to become more accepted. No longer were alternative sports considered just hobbies or reserved only for the Olympics. Alternative sports became considered spectator friendly sports great for live crowds and television audiences alike. Without this early acceptance mixed martial arts might not have been accepted so readily.
Another reason mixed martial arts have gained so much popularity has to be contributed to the accessibility of the sport. Lots of sports are equipment heavy. Sports like football that use a lot of equipment are expensive to compete in. In many of these equipment laden sports, the quality of the equipment often lends a serious advantage to an athlete. This can give an advantage to an athlete based on financial means instead of just skill. The expense of such sports is a huge barrier to entry for many kids and adults alike. Many of the genres that are the building blocks for MMA, like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, need little more than a set of mats on a flat surface. The lack of equipment needed makes it much more financially feasible for many people. Disciplines, like BJJ, need no more room than a medium size living room. No large expansive fields are needed for practicing the sport making it possible to practice virtually anywhere.
Even though MMA has been popular for a few years now, it has only entered the true spotlight the past couple of years. Sponsorship, by major brands, has monetized the sport to a new level. Television coverage, by major networks, along with the stout sponsorship has fully launched the sport into the stratosphere. The possibility for male and female athletes to make a comfortable living as professional athletes have fully legitimized the sport.
Many people give the credit to the UFC for bringing big money sponsors to the sport. The UFC has no doubt played a large part in the success of the sport. However, those addictive qualities of alternative sports have played an equal part. MMA is exciting, full of adrenaline and packed with charismatic athletes. Few sports have presented opportunities for men and women alike the way that MMA has. It certainly helps that mixed martial arts are a terrific medium for the television. It is quite easy for cameras to cover all the action inside the octagon. Total camera coverage coupled with great commentary makes it easy to follow for new spectators not familiar with the sport. Any sport that is great for television is great for sponsorship.
Unlike some of the traditional mentioned earlier, MMA has a global appeal. The world wide audience, that view the sport, has catapulted it past the level of many traditional sports. Many of these traditional sports are only popular in America. The global competition has further legitimized the sport by quickly elevating the skill set needed to be the best. The global interest has only contributed to the financial stability of the sport. It is fast surpassing mainstays in sports such as boxing.
Traditional sports like football, basketball, and base ball will always have a place in the sports world. It just happens to be that the sports world, like the real world, has gotten a whole lot bigger. Sports that used to be considered no more than activities for weekend warriors have become top sports in America and in the world. Sports once considered alternative has grown to support entire industries and brands. Dreams of going professional in these sports are no longer dreams. They are legitimate opportunities for men and women around the world. The momentum for mixed martial arts is not slowing down but instead gaining steam. World wide there is no longer any doubt that MMA is a mainstream sport.