Undertones of MMA: Sport or Lifestyle?

June 14, 2008

On its best nights, the recipe for great MMA was real simple: equal parts pro-wrestling and boxing. The pageantry of the former, combined with the legitimacy and unscripted nature of the latter were thought to make for an intoxicating night of fights.

However, Tuesday’s dichotic announcements are an indication that since its assumed all MMA promotions are based in legitimate, unscripted competition, the pageantry associated with pro-wrestling is more important for attracting fans and drawing revenue.

But the bottom-line is that the UFC is the only promotion that has found the balance between too much and too little pomp in the circumstance of MMA.

After all, when EliteXC’s CBS telecast juxtaposed MMA with grand entrances, brash hip-hop artists and MMA’s version of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, it was not only rejected by fans, but by the MMA media as well.

Smaller promotions, like many that appear on HDNet, leave their production in the hands of the network, which does an adequate job, but does not devote the resources on a level equivalent to the UFC, or its cable television partner SpikeTV.

In fact, the UFC owes the majority of its financial success to SpikeTV. Outside of turning the promotion around after launching the Ultimate Fighter reality series, SpikeTV’s pay per view previews give the UFC something no other promotion has: A platform on which to sell, not just the sport, but the lifestyle of mixed martial arts.

Early indicators from Afflication’s pre-show production and promos are that it will be on par, and possibly exceed the UFC’s presentation.

If they find a content partner that allows them to sell their brand and its fighters as a lifestyle, it will quickly become a force to be reckoned with, despite the fact that the initial pay per view is doomed to be a profitless endeavor.

The addition of Donald Trump as one of the organizations backers not only gives Affliction deep pockets, but connections to NBC and the king of reality TV producers, Mark Burnett, who cooked up Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice.”

Given Affliction’s dual role as an MMA promotion and clothing company, it already has created a context for a lifestyle. Finding that “lifestyle content” partner would drive consumers to its MMA product and clothing line at the same time.

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