Brutish Spectators

There was a recent survey taken of MMA fans that found that “violence” was only the 5th most important reason for watching MMA events.  You can find an in-depth discussion of this study at The Average Visitor blog (which just happens to be written by my girlfriend).

There's more to MMA than senseless violence? Please, do tell...

Personally, I think the fact that there were 4 reasons more important to spectators than “violence” for watching MMA is encouraging.  As Ashley mentioned, there’s an unfortunate stereotype that MMA fans are brutish, blood-thirsty, low-brow meat heads.  To give you a example of what I mean, in her blog post Ashley refers to an experience we had here in Logan, UT at The Beehive Grill an anonymous local establishment.  There was a Spike TV broadcast of a UFC event, and I had called the place to see if they would show it.  After being told they did in fact have the channel, I rounded up a bunch of friends (many of whom weren’t MMA fans, but wanted a few wings and a beer) and headed over.  When we arrived, we were told that the owner did not allow MMA to be shown on the TV because it would encourage patrons to fight.

I was kind of surprised by this.  I mean, the people watching football at the next table somehow managed to contain their urges to tackle the waitresses.  Yet apparently us low-brow MMA fans would descend into a crazed bloodlust if we were permitted to see trained martial artists competing on TV.  In any case, we happily watched the fights and spent our money at The White Owl a different local establishment.

Since MMA (and the component martial arts that the competitors train) have gained prominence in the last decade or two, spectators are becoming more knowledgeable about the intricacies of the fight game.  These aren’t untrained street fighters that we are watching.  They are highly skilled martial artists, who are using highly specific techniques to win their fights.  I’ve noticed that in recent years, the crowd reacts (with cheers and boos) more appropriately when techniques are correctly applied – even if they don’t end in a submission or knockout.  For example, when MMA was just starting to get popular, crowds would only go wild when somebody got knocked out.  Now, you’ll hear the crowd cheering when a fighter passes guard, establishes mount, or sweeps an opponent.

I like a good ol' fashioned knockout as much as anyone else, but I'm always impressed when crowds cheer for the more subtle techniques leading up to a finish.

This is encouraging.  Maybe in a few more years, as MMA continues to grow in popularity and gains a wider exposure (incidentally, the UFC recently got a prime time deal with FOX), it (along with its spectators) will be treated in the same regard as football, basketball, or hockey.

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About Dave

Grad student in Ecology, Blue belt in jiu jitsu.
This entry was posted in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, MMA and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Brutish Spectators

  1. David says:

    Interesting take; hopefully it reflects a changing, more knowledgeable viewing audience spectatorship. But go ahead and watch the UFC shows from four or more years ago (say UFC 40-something through UFC 80-something). Pay attention to those passages of the fights that went to ground that contained prolonged, very technical, ground game without overt striking, elbows, etc. Gauge audience response to those passages. It still bothers me the amount of booing the fighters received from those audiences. In fact, knowing what goes into preparing for an mma fight and the heart it takes just to enter the cage, I remain amazed that anyone ever boos at those shows. But it happened. Alot. Hopefully less so now that the sport is all but mainstream and the viewing public has had ample time to get educated on the sport.

    BTW, great blog. I’m fresh back in bjj after 8 years off and am glad to read a blog that features anything other than mere technique posts or equipment reviews.

    David

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for the comments David! I completely agree with you – it amazes me that people boo fighters. As you said, I think it stems from a lack of understanding of the sport, as well as an under-appreciation for the preparation that these fighters undergo. Glad you enjoy the blog, and thanks for reading!

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