Have you been paying attention to social media, the news, or half the conversations overheard at the many beer gardens littering our streets? You may have noticed a sharp rise in popularity for a handful of combat sports.
But when you think of combat sports, what are the first sports that come into your head? Sports and martial arts such as MMA, boxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu have been taking the world by storm recently.
But why is this the case? It is always been exciting to watch two world-class athletes at the top of their field fight to win a title or a belt. But there seems to be more coverage now than ever.
As it turns out, there are a few reasons for this explosive growth:
They are A Growing Hobby
Training for combat sports offers a refreshing alternative to the gym and allows you to keep in shape without boring yourself senseless running on a treadmill. Training for many of these sports often involves a wide range of pad work, sparring / grappling drills, calisthenic exercise, and running / sprinting. The wide variety of skills available for you to focus and work on keeps things interesting.
Depending on where you live, you might have even noticed a handful of new gyms teaching these disciplines opening up in your area over the last few years. You could make the argument that this is due in part to the already growing popularity of these sports, but there is also a case to be made that more and more people are finding out about the joys of combat sports through first-hand experience. There is almost no better way to experience them.
They have Completely Infiltrated Popular Culture
The number of movies, comic books, TV shows, and even songs about boxers (past and present), MMA fighters, kickboxers, and other combat experts is practically limitless. But that is only a minor way in which these arts have infiltrated our culture.
The past five years have seen the creation of legendary fighters who completely transcend their sports. Much like Michael Jordan has done with basketball, we have seen the creation of titans such as Conor McGregor.
The average person who does not have a clue about basketball could tell you who Michael Jordan was – and that same person could also tell you exactly who Conor McGregor is.
Individuals like these do wonders to garner interest for their fields and can bring in millions of additional views during their normally highly publicized bouts.
They Make For Incredible Social Events
If you have never organized a get-together for a major title fight in boxing or some form of a grudge match in the UFC (think Khabib and McGregor) – then you are missing out.
You can plan your event with the same level of exuberance as a Super Bowl party. But unlike the Super Bowl party, you will be able to organize these get-togethers every month. Rather than once every year.
Think snacks, music, pre-fight drinks, and a long night alternating between laughter, joy, and nail-biting suspense.
They are Largely Apolitical
In recent years highly commercialized team sports have seen an increase in political messaging. Players, teams, and club owners jump on the opportunity to promote various social causes or highlight political issues that they feel are relevant.
This appears to be damaging viewership in certain sports. Most sports have seen a general decline in viewership, but poll data related to political messaging was recently collected by MartistPoll. They discovered that whilst 46% of people said that political messaging did not affect their viewership, 32% said it made them more likely to tune out. This dwarfed the 21% who claimed it made them more likely to watch sports.
Combat sports are largely apolitical – which could account for their universal popularity across all faiths, classes, and political backgrounds.
Influencers / Celebrities Love Them
In the last couple of years, we have seen a wide variety of influencers and celebrities flocking to combat sports. Martial arts and combat sports do a particularly great job of grounding you and instilling some sense of discipline and integrity in your day-to-day life. This can be a literal life-saver for someone living an otherwise lavish lifestyle.
It is not all about self-improvement, though. Many influential figures such as Jake Paul (of Vine fame) and KSI (of YouTube) have been capitalizing on the massive paycheque you can expect from highly publicized pay-per-view fights and participating in heavily publicized rivalries.
The Rise Of Female Fighters
Combat sports have shown a massive influx of female fans in recent years. This is due in part to the rising popularity of female fighters. Mixed martial arts promoters have always historically been fairly neutral with how they organize their fight cards. Female fighters compete at the same events as their male counterparts, rather than fighting at separate events, which can lead to lower viewership.
As a result of this “gender-neutral” approach to promotions, female MMA fighters often enjoy the same level of fame as their male counterparts and enjoy a mixed demographic of male and female fans.
Joe Rogan is a stand-up comedian who moonlights as one of the world’s most successful and famous podcasters. He has always enjoyed a close relationship with combat sports, having spent time fighting competitively in his youth.
As a result, he landed a job as a commentator in the UFC in the late 1990s. As his career exploded and he found himself becoming a household name – he maintained close ties with the MMA community. He regularly brings in professional MMA fighters, Jiu Jitsu black belts, and people hailing from other disciplines to his podcast, which receives over 190 million downloads a month.
Other online influencers such as Jake Paul and Logan Paul have made their foray into boxing.
There really is not a single major reason for the prominence of combat sports in recent years. On top of them being a great source of exercise and an awesome social activity – they have also completely dominated popular culture. With countless hours of podcasts, documentaries, reality shows, and news coverage to wade through, it is easy to understand why someone would want to completely immerse themselves in this new world.