The Ultimate Fighting Championship and the sport of mixed martial arts has risen from the roots of a fringe sport into the mainstream spotlight in recent years, but is it running down other mainstream sports in America?
UFC light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones thinks so.
“It’s become much more of a mainstream thing,” Jones said recently on a UFC 140 media conference call. “We’re really starting to catch up to the NBA and to the NFL.”
The sport landing on the Fox network is a tremendous step forward in recognition and acceptance. Jones understands where the sport is, where it’s been, and where it could be going. New markets are being reached and new advertising dollars are pouring in.
“We’re right there,” said Jones. “We’re looking up fast and I think when these major companies come looking at us, I want them to know that you can trust investing into UFC because we’re quality guys. Just as much of athletes and professionals as any other club sport.”
With the Fox deal, mixed martial arts finds itself having to re-educate the public about the sport, its athletes and its rules. It’s about packaging the sport the right way to the millions of more eyes that are tuning in now that may have misconceptions.
“I think mainstream America has a lot of learning to do about us. Being in the position that I am, I just want mainstream America to know that we’re solid guys, that we’re class acts, capable of being mainstream individuals,” said Jones.
“These people, they won’t know how much training and how much education goes into each bout,” he added. “I kind of do small things like media training and always try to make sure that I have a suit on and just try to portray us for the positive light.
“Let mainstream people get to know that we’re college educated guys and that we are intelligent athletes and not just guys who show up and beat each other up in the cage,” said the 205-pound champion.