I’ve never liked mixed martial arts. I think putting two men in a cage to beat each other to a pulp is barbaric. The only thing that’s worse is paying money to watch two men in a cage beating each other to a pulp.
That is one of the reasons I had to hold my nose a bit while writing this piece about the rise of MMA and the UFC in Brazil.
The sport – if you can call it that – is growing quickly in Brazil and businesses are cottoning on. As I write in my story:
The number of people subscribing to the Combat channel (in Brazil) has gone from 13,000 in 2006 to 150,000, according to Fernando Ferreira, president of Pluri, a sports consulting firm.
Gillette, which sponsors fighter Vitor Belfort and The Ultimate Fighter reality show, said its name recognition has tripled since beginning their campaign in March. Their latest ad for razor blades featuring seven UFC fighters has been watched more than 16 million times on YouTube in just two weeks (see below).
The man who runs the UFC’s licensing arm in Brazil said when they began selling products in April 2011 he estimated they might take in $80 million in the first year. In fact, the total turned out to be closer to $180 million and that number is expected to rise another 30 percent this year and could double in 2013, especially if more fights are held in Brazil.
“Brazil is far and away the most vibrant market in every one of the developments; tickets, TV ratings, merchandising, digital, even mobile business, and it is one of our fastest growing social media markets in the world,” added Marshall Zelaznik, Managing Director of International Development for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the best-known of the sport’s governing bodies.
“Brazil has more UFC fans than any other country in the world,” he said. “We have over 20 million people watching a televised event at midnight. Companies are interested and they realize there is big consumer demand. I can tell you that there is not a meeting that goes by here at the UFC where Brazil is not discussed.”
But why do I think MMA is so barbaric? I mean, I always liked boxing.
As I wrote this story I asked myself (and discussed with friends), what makes one more palatable than the other.
I told myself that unlike MMA, there is a certain dignity to boxing. But I just think of Don King or Mike Tyson and I wonder if I am kidding myself there.
What I do think is true is that the answer is in the limits placed on competitors. When a boxer is knocked down he is protected. When a MMA fighter falls, his opponent jumps on him and beats him some more. He quite literally hits him when he is down.
Boxing counted some of literature’s top names amongst its fans. Norman Mailer, AJ Liebling and Joyce Carol Oates are among those who saw something special in boxing and were moved to write whole books about it. I can’t imagine anyone doing the same about the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
It’s barbaric. And big business.