The sport of mixed martial arts, more commonly known as MMA, has experienced tremendous growth in its fan base particularly among the Hispanic Millennial demo. Since it’s introduction in 1993, the most famous MMA organizations have exploded and evolved into an empire of pay-per-view fights and large arena events, as well as a lifestyle industry, complete with clothing lines, fighter appearances and dramatic rivalries. Its most famous Latino star is Mexican-American fighter Cain Velasquez. With pride for their humble roots and Hispanic heritage, Velasquez and other Hispanic fighters have helped boost support from the growing Hispanic Millennial populace.
According to an ESPN survey, Hispanic Americans love mixed martial arts and professional wrestling. In households that communicate mostly or entirely in Spanish, combat sports are second to soccer. In English-speaking Hispanic households, combat sports trail only soccer and the NFL.
Originating from the full contact sport of Vale tudo in Brazil, the sport was created with minimal rules, and was promoted as a competition to determine the most effective martial art for unarmed combat situations. It wasn’t long before the fighters realized that if they wanted to be competitive among the best, they needed to train in additional disciplines. Fighters began to morph into well-rounded, balanced fighters that could fight standing or on the floor. This blend of fighting styles and skills became known as mixed martial arts (MMA).
Today, with a solid roster of fights every year, organizations host most of the top-ranked fighters in the world. Events are held not only in America, but also in many countries all over the globe. MMA is considered to be safer than boxing because once a fighter is knocked out, they are not given a chance to get up and continue fighting. In boxing, if a fighter gets up within 10 seconds, the fight goes on.
Bellator, one of the most recognizable MMA promotional organization, recognizes its Latino fans and has broadcast fights and commentary on Spanish and bilingual networks catering to the Hispanic Millennials. Bellator is known for its robust group of Latino fighters and thus, is hugely popular with this audience.
Veteran MMA fans agree that once the sport gains visibility in Latin America, it will spread like crazy and fighters will be coming in from the wood works in the next five to ten years.
This is a market that is waiting to be tapped, especially in the United States. It coming years, programming to showcase the lives of fighters along with the bouts themselves will be commonplace in television lineups; English and Spanish. The future of fighting is on its way.
Sources: Bellator.com, BleacherReport.com, UFC.com, ESPN.com