View Full Version : Do Hardcore Mixed Martial Arts Fans Hamper the Growth of the Sport?

05-04-2010, 05:56 PM
Really interesting article from Fighters.com. I think I've fallen prey to this a coupla times...

I have been spending a lot of time on mixed martial arts (MMA) message boards as of late and have seen an influx of new fans of the sport joining these sites. Many times we see their first ever post ridiculed by the more senior members and the self-anointed “MMA Hardcore”. Could it be the most loyal fans of the sport are actually hampering the growth by their actions?

Let’s start by trying to define what the “MMA Hardcore” actually means. The hardcore MMA fan usually defines oneself as someone who has been around MMA since it’s birth or shortly thereafter. They watch the UFC but have a strong affinity towards the now defunct Pride Fighting Championships. They watch as much of the sort as they can get often scouring the internet for videos of fights from Japan and other far off places. They spend time on Twitter following fighters and industry insiders and listen to MMA podcasts such as MMA Gospel Radio. I believe this is a fair assessment of the hardcore fan in a nut shell.
Hardcore fans of the sport think of mixed martial arts as “theirs” and this is a stance that I highly disagree with. This automatically alienates any newcomers to the sport. Rather than trying to keep the sport of MMA to ourselves we need to be willing to share the sport with everyone we come in contact with on a day to day basis. The growth of the sport depends on bringing in new fans and tutoring them on the sport, the fighters and the history.
Many come to Twitter or to MMA message boards on various sites and rather than be welcomed they are chastised. I spoke with @BigDog_KA via Twitter and he stated “People seemed kind of annoyed at me for being new. Like it’s a club, and I have to be a fan for X years til I can get in.” How can the hardcore MMA fans want the sport to grow and to become the top sport in the world yet ridicule and cast aside new fans that can do just that?
I understand how annoying it can be when someone tells you that they consider Fighters.com fifth-ranked light heavyweight Forrest Griffin (http://www.fighters.com/fighter/Forrest-Griffin) (17-6) one of the pound for pound best in the sport with elite striking a solid chin. However rather than belittle them and possibly take the chance of souring them to the sport, why not take the high road and work to educate these new fans?
I asked the followers of @mmagospel on Twitter their thoughts on hardcore fans verus the casual fan and @scream13 said “Splintering the fan base of MMA always seemed very Anti-MMA to me. My eyes light up when I meet any MMA fans. period.” I happen to know that @scream13 is a hardcore MMA fan. I found it refreshing to see someone so passionate about the sport take the proper stance on new fans. I happen to agree that the splintering of the fan base is bad for the sport as a whole.
There is a class system being established inside the sport and that goes against sports in general, does it not? Aren’t sports a pastime that is supposed to bring together the masses? Regardless of age, sex, race or background sports is something that has welcomed us all and allowed us to form bonds with those that we may not normally run across in our everyday lives.
The elitism of some current MMA fans could lead to a stalled growth in the near future. This will not come specifically because of those on the MMA message boards and forums but it will be the patient zero so to speak. If a person can sit there and turn their back on someone new to the sport who thinks enough about it to actively seek out new information in the form of a message board, how do you think they would treat an even more casual fan?
In today’s economy and with the number of pay-per-view events we are being offered each month, people are flocking to their local bars or pubs to watch the fights. This is where the elitist attitude can have a direct and very negative impact on the sport. I admit that I have been to a bar to watch the fights and heard someone make a comment that made me laugh at first and then got my blood boiling. It was ignorant and told me all I needed to know about their MMA IQ. Later I realized that I was given an opportunity at that moment. It is times like these when you can share your knowledge of the sport. Of course one must do it in a non-condescending way so as not to anger the person but you have the chance to educate and that is a chance all MMA fans need to take.
Some hardcore fans can also be found making fun of those wearing certain combat sport brand clothing. I have witnessed on more than one occasion where someone sees a person wearing a TapouT shirt and laughs at them. They feel they know more about MMA than that person and that they are just being “posers”. Again, obviously they have some sort of connection to the sport. Rather than laugh at them, call them names and think you are better than them because you have been to live events, met fighters and have watched the sport for a long time, invite them to watch the next fight with you. Yes hardcore fans, I am suggesting you take “The Ultimate Fighter Noob” and allow them to watch the fights with you. This way they become part of the conversation, can hear someone with real knowledge of the sport, learn more than they could on their own and become a real part of the massive growth of this sport.
It is the duty of all fans of the sport to bring in new fans and to make sure these new fans are as educated as possible. It is far time we think of MMA as less of “our sport” and more a sport for every man and woman. Let’s drop the insults and elitist attitudes and welcome the masses that are sure to come with wide open arms.