The answer is simple: live events and content. UFC produces more than 40 live events annually and reaches more than 1 billion TV households worldwide. In a world where people are increasingly watching things where and when they want, UFC—like most sporting events—remains one of the few areas of programming that people actually watch while it’s happening. Which makes it incredibly valuable in terms of advertising, sponsorships, and distribution deals.
I remember a friend introducing me the UFC back in the late 90s. It was started by the Gracie family as a means to showcase the power of their style of jiu jitsu. Back then jiu jitsu was not nearly as well-known as it is today and people couldn’t understand how Royce Gracie was taking down guys much bigger and stronger than him. This early fight with Royce is incredible. In the early days there were no time limits, hair-pulling was legal, and there were no weight classes. It was truly the wild west.
It wasn’t until the mid-2000s that I got back into watching the fights. Last year I started listening to UFC commentator Joe Rogan’s podcast and I’ve been captivated at his depth of knowledge when it comes to the UFC and mixed martial arts. This has made me watch fights with an even closer eye.
One side of me is happy for UFC president Dana White, but the other side of me wonders if the UFC has jumped the shark. It seems to be more about the glitz & glamour in recent years, and less about the fighting.
All this being said, you can bet I’ll be watching the Conor McGregor/Nate Diaz rematch on August 20th.