For professional mixed martial arts, it’s the best of times. MMA is the fastest-growing sport… and one of the most profitable.
For college wrestling, times are tough. Programs are being eliminated, or facing steep financial cutbacks.
Collegiate wrestling is something of a developmental league for MMA, a training ground for dozens of fighters over the years. Why can’t college wrestling share in MMA’s fame and fortune?
In an article posted Wednesday at InterMat, T.R. Foley looks at the financial dynamics of the MMA-wrestling relationship and suggests ways the college mat sport “can capitalize on the popularity of its most profitable sporting cousin.”
Foley cites the audience numbers for Saturday’s UFC on Fox event — the first-ever broadcast of an Ultimate Fighting Championships event in 18 years — featuring former Arizona State All-American Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos. Even though Velasquez lost his UFC heavyweight title in just 64 seconds to the Brazilian, there are two sets of statistics that should give encouragement to college wrestling fans everywhere:
- UFC on Fox had 5.7 million viewers — the most ever for any UFC event — despite going up against college football and the lead-in to a major boxing match.
- It garnered the second-highest male 18-34 demographic (the most coveted in advertising) of the sporting season, more than baseball, football, or any other single athletic event, other than the recent No. 1 vs. No. 2 football game between Louisiana State and Alabama.
As Foley points out, college wrestling is the No. 1 feeder for talent for the MMA. So why doesn’t collegiate wrestling profit from that relationship? “A lack of creativity, community of complacency and the misguided belief that wrestling as a consumer product can’t be profitable,” writes the long-time InterMat writer.
In his article titled “Striking Out”, Foley offers a number of suggestions as to how college wrestling programs can thrive by making themselves more attractive to MMA advertisers. Even if you’re not a fan of MMA — or worry that it is causing a talent drain that affects US success in international wrestling competition — Foley’s InterMat feature serves up plenty of food for thought.
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