MMA Trickles Down To The Grassroots

July 30, 2008

The Yakima Herald-Republic published an article that serves to illustrate how far MMA has come in the consciousness of the average person. MMA has gone from the combat sport that dare not speak it’s name to one that is drawing in folks in droves:

But the closer-to-home changes in how the sport is viewed really prove its place in the mainstream.

As recently as six months ago, Matt Hughes would tell people his Yakima gym, Focus Martial Arts, didn’t teach mixed martial arts; he taught tae kwon do, jiujitsu and karate.

Things have changed since then, as MMA has continued to grow in popularity.

The sport has cemented itself at the mom and pop level, with local entrepreneurs being able to open multiple dojos within the same market. The article discusses at some length the popularity of MMA training not for competition, but rather for “trying to get into shape with “combat cardio,” or they’re trying to test themselves physically during training.”

Probably the most encouraging thing mentioned in the article is the diversity of ages, and income levels. What was once seen as the dominion of the young, aggressive and overly tattooed, has evolved and spread to other demographics:

“What prompted me to open a business is having so many people say, ‘I really want to learn,'” said the 37-year-old Guerin, who operates the gym with his wife, Julie Guerin. “I have doctors, lawyers. I have police officers, teenagers. I have a lady in her 60s who’s been with me for three years now.”

Busting out of the normal demographic niches is key to the long term viability of the sport as well as determining the ceiling for growth of MMA. One thing not mentioned in the article is ethnicity, which is an area the sport should look at for improvement.

Robert Thompson, Syracuse University Professor and pop culture expert, closed with this:

“For this sport to really have a chance of making its way into the central parts of the culture, like football and soccer and NASCAR have, it needed to be in many ways spruced up,” Thompson said. “It’s feeling out those parameters.”

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