For a mixed martial artist to add value to an organization, they are expected to draw attention—either positively or negatively—to their fights, thereby MMA could fall under the category of entertainment; however, these athletes lock themselves into a cage with hopes of victory in their scopes, so it could also be considered a sport. Fact is, it’s both.
The trouble with MMA is finding a harmonious balance; too much on the entertainment side can come across as corny, and too focused on the sporting side could cause a deficit in garnering the fans to become emotionally invested in their pursuit for glory.
As outlined in a previous letter of the A to Z Challenge—B is for Branding (link here)—it’s important for fighters to present a persona, or even create one, so they won’t easily get lost in the shuffle. There are a lot of fighters filling cages around the world, and when they appear under the bright lights three to four—sometimes less, sometimes more—times a year, it’s easy for the fanbase to forget them, instead of remaining at the forefront of their thoughts.
Social media, interactions with various online outlets, or locating limelights in some other capacity are great ways to market their “brand” within the entertainment aspect. Whether playing the part of a heel, a hero, or even just being their normal self, without a generation of interest from fans—regardless of wanting to them win or lose—the climb up the ranks will be a slow, arduous process if their prizefighting skillset isn’t supported with some personality. Several examples of mixed martial artists at the pinnacle of the game who put themselves, cringeworthy or otherwise, on display outside of the cage include:
It’s important for the more casual observers of MMA to understand the distinction between entertainment and sport because a dive into its inner-workings, especially initially, could lead to a great deal of confusion. For instance, rookie onlookers are left scratching their heads when a fighter on a lengthy win-streak, but with no real window into what makes them tick, is left out in the cold when it comes to a shot at the title, yet a newcomer to a promotion, who garners everyone’s attention, elevates their status to that of a contender as if shot from a cannon.
In conclusion, MMA’s hurt business is much more than simply the ability to land strikes or finish submissions.
Prompted from the A to Z Challenge at: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/.