I’m a huge fan of mixed martial arts. I love everything about it – the competition, the talent, the thrill. And like most MMA junkies living in the great state of New York, I’m waiting with bated breath to be able to attend a live fight in my own home town. But that’s another post for another blog.
Well … maybe not. See, the way I look at it, the controversy surrounding the legalization of MMA in New York is directly related to one thing: its reputation. Or, more specifically: the misinformation that has formed its reputation. And, boys and girls, what do we know about misinformation? It often occurs due to a lack of communication, a lack of awareness. It’s no surprise to me that many people who oppose MMA admittedly don’t actually know that much about it.
Dana White – president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the largest MMA promotion company in the world – knows this all too well. That’s why he spends who-knows-how-many thousands of dollars trying to educate the public on the sport. In his fight to win over New York lawmakers, he’s written opinion pieces in city newspapers, commissioned studies to show how much revenue MMA fights would bring to the state, and done countless interviews with news channels and radio shows. And while he’s educating lawmakers and the public about MMA, he’s doing something else, as a result: a heck of a lot of marketing and promotion for both the sport and his company. Pretty smooth.
But White’s smartest move in this “fan base acquisition” endeavor, without question, was his decision to take UFC social.
White knows where his fans are – the current ones, like me, and the potential ones, who are my socially-connected friends. For me, the best part of his effort is that he has recognized that the “if you build it, they will come” mentality is a big, fat lie.
He understands, for example, that just using the UFC Facebook page as a news feed wasn’t going to cut it. Instead, he created a legitimate destination for UFC events that fans can’t see or experience anywhere else. On fight nights, as long as I’m a “liker” of the page, I can watch the preliminary bouts right from the customized tab. For an audience at the mercy of Pay-Per-View fees, this gives a huge and very welcome level of access.
And, just announced, White’s trying something new on Twitter. Whereas his fighters are accustomed to battling it out for Fight of the Night, Knockout of the Night and Submission of the Night – awards that come with hefty monetary bonuses – they can now vie for “Tweet of the Night.” Well, sort of. Fighters who increase their Twitter followers by the largest percentage or Tweet the most creatively will be compensated for their efforts. This rewards the fighters who are already there, and encourages those who aren’t to start engaging. As far as I am concerned, this means I’ll have a greater opportunity to chat with my favorite mixed martial artists. (My older brother used to tease me that I only had “friends” because he paid people to talk to me. So be it if it means I get to converse with a world-class athlete!)
There’s no doubt that mixed martial arts is growing in popularity at an exponential rate. Fingers crossed, I’ll soon be able to take in a fight at the Times Union Center instead of trekking up to Canada to see favorite fighter and Quebec native @GeorgesStPierre or over to Mohegan Sun Arena to watch the fighters of @BellatorMMA (another promotion company) try to make names for themselves in the world of MMA.
It’s going to take a lot more engagement, promotion and audience building, but I think Dana White and the UFC are on the right track.