Dana White: We're just not mainstream


main·stream • m?n?str?m • noun
The ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional; the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, or the arts.

Modern mixed martial arts started in 1993 as a spectacle. Under the direction of Art Davie, the marketing once notoriously proclaimed "anything can happen, even death!" Even more notoriously, Sen. John McCain labelled the sport "human cockfighting," and it was banned in many states, and driven even from PPV.

The sport reached such depths that the now defunct Ultimate Athlete magazine wrote “If not for the Underground forum … the sport might have died as PPV buy rates had sunk to such abysmal levels.”

The in 2001, Dana White and the Fertitta brothers purchased the league.

They brought in professional marketers, and created prefessional media, and put it in Maxim mag. We were stunned.
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However, what then looked like MMA entering the mainstream, now looks, well, not very mainstream.

Then came the most important fight in the sport's history, 2005's Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin, during the finals of The Ultimate Fighter 1. The owners had financed the reality series, doubling down on a money losing effort.

And things turned around. The UFC is now the world's most valuable sports franchise.

In 2011, the UFC signed a $700,000,000 deal with FOX Sports, and fans thought the sport was perhaps finally mainstream.

However, at the time, White told UFC staff that they weren't there.

"We're not mainstream yet," said White. "Now's the time to dig in and work. If we pull this thing off, we will be mainstream."

"We live in a bubble in our offices and take it for granted people know what armbars, guillotines, and triangle chokes are -- nobody knows what this means. We have to view it as if nobody knows anything about this sport."

During a media conference call to promote UFC Fight For The Troops on Wednesday and UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson on Saturday, White said we're still not there, yet.

“It takes a long time,” said White. “We’ve only been here for 13 years and we really didn’t even start kicking until 2005, 2006.”

White told a story about sitting with his kids in seats on the 50-yard line at Gillette Stadium over the weekend to watch his New England Patriots play the Pittsburgh Steelers. He got to talking to one of the fans sitting right behind him and the fan--a 30-something man right smack in the middle of the UFC’s target demographic--had no idea what the Ultimate Fighting Championship was.

“He didn’t even know Chandler Jones’ brother was the champ of the UFC. He was asking me if it was regional.”

“It’s a big world out there, man,” White said.

Results of UFC events are still not put in most major metropolitan newspapers the same way that MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL games are. The UFC isn’t covered on your local nightly news sportscast either.

Those things, White said, are also indicators that the UFC hasn’t risen to that level yet. It also means the organization still has significant growth potential – if people don’t know what it is, how can they determine whether or not they like it?

“For us to claim that we’re mainstream, we’re just not,” White said.

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Recent Comments »

tenchu site profile image  

11/9/13 1:37 AM by tenchu

MMA is well on it's way to reaching boxing popularity in the States. In fact, it's popularity has surpassed boxing's in the younger demographics (Scarborough, 2013).

noisebully site profile image  

11/8/13 11:41 PM by noisebully

it will be just like boxing in the future. mma is catching on, just think about the increasing amount of bjj wrestling etc in fighting scenes in movies etc. but just like boxing, it will only attract certain people.mainstream sports are somewhat family sports and always will be. everything else has its ups and downs but will remain below mainstream.theres nothing else to it.

bhealthy site profile image  

11/8/13 3:29 PM by bhealthy

thanks to people going full retard with hormone supplementation "therapy"

bhealthy site profile image  

11/8/13 3:29 PM by bhealthy

thanks to people going full retard with hormone supplementation "therapy"

bhealthy site profile image  

11/8/13 3:28 PM by bhealthy

its not mainstream because people that want to watch drugged up combatats go at it can watch crackwhores in an alley for less than fifty bucks

bhealthy site profile image  

11/8/13 3:27 PM by bhealthy

its not mainstream because people that want to watched drugged up combatats go at it can watch crackwhores in an alley for less than fifty bucks

nek site profile image  

11/8/13 2:09 PM by nek

Combat sports, like most individual sports, are never really "mainstream" due to the lack of emotional and ego investments in individuals vs. teams. Sure golf and tennis can be considered mainstream and are individual sports, but look at the comment sections of golf/tennis articles on ESPN vs. baseball, football, basketball. They dwarf in comparison. When people take about their football team they root for, just look at the language they use and it reveals this ego investment: "We beat you guys last year in the playoffs", they talk as if they're on the field. People don't talk like this about individual sports and combat sports. I don't see a lot of people crying when they're favorite fighter loses, but watch a college football game where the top 5 ranked home team loses in the waning minutes of the game and you'll see plenty of grown ass people shedding tears. There's more emotional investment. Now why is that? Two reasons for this that come to mind:1.) Sports teams are affiliated with geographic locations: It's gang mentality. If you're from Houston you're down with the Texans (for the most part). That's your tribe. So when it's Houston vs. Minnesota it's YOUR tribe vs. AN OUTSIDE tribe. This is a fundamental human emotion. The sense of belonging to a group.2.) Longevity and family tie: You're grand dad was a niners fan, so you're dad became one and now you're one. And here's the kicker - the niners still play today. Combat sports this doesn't exist. You're grand dad may have loved Ali, and you may still appreciate him yourself but he's still not boxing today. Individuals come and go, teams are typically around long enough to have storied histories and generations of fans. Patriots fans are still gonna be patriots fans after Tom Brady (for the most part).Another indicator was the fact that kickboxing was never really mainstream. One of the biggest complaints about mma from casual fans is the wrestling aspect of it. Well kickboxing/muay thai is all striking but It never really got big to casual fans (not that I can recall anyways, I'm 30). According to people's complaints about mma, kickboxing and muay thai should be wildly popular yet they're still not relative to teams sports. And that is due to the things I mentioned above.With these things in mind, it seems understandable why mma won't ever be as popular as other "mainstream" sports. I think what the UFC has done is to make it "acceptable", which given the nature of combat sports, is all you can really ever ask.

Captfireeyes site profile image  

11/7/13 8:55 PM by Captfireeyes

Dana's personality appeals to the delinquents who thinks getting into twitter arguments and saying "your an egg" to a no name twitter account is "owning trolls and being alpha". Not quite the image of the president of a mainstream sports organization.

Koga site profile image  

11/7/13 8:24 PM by Koga

To breakthrough, there needs to be a balancing of promoting stars and promoting the brand that requires a sophisticated, professional approach.In other words, DFW is holding the UFC back and needs to go.

NatualBornTickler site profile image  

11/7/13 7:36 PM by NatualBornTickler

Lol sooo not mainstream, Dana trying to get the hipsters in. In for pic of Dana with fake reading glasses on and boat shoes with no socks