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The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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June 17, 2024

The rising popularity of UFC with Gen Z

The UFC is a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promotion that hosts multiple fighting events year-round, such as their UFC Fight Night cards and their UFC pay-per-view (PPV) cards, garnering millions of views and thousands of PPV buys.
@ufc via Instagram
The UFC is a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promotion that hosts multiple fighting events year-round, such as their UFC Fight Night cards and their UFC pay-per-view (PPV) cards, garnering millions of views and thousands of PPV buys.

With various forms of entertainment coming out every year, new generations can continue to step into the latest media and sports attractions the world has to offer. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has become one of the fastest-growing attractions, cementing itself into various generations, with one of its largest fan bases being Gen Z teenagers. 

The UFC is a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promotion that hosts multiple fighting events year-round, such as their UFC Fight Night cards and their UFC pay-per-view (PPV) cards, garnering millions of views and thousands of PPV buys. The UFC was established in 1993 and has just recently started to attract more viewership from the Gen Z population. A survey conducted by GoKnit, a trusted research provider for the WNBA and NASCAR, surveyed more than 500 college students across 12 U.S. states and 24 universities and found that students have put combat sports such as MMA and boxing into their top 10 sports watched on TV. According to SportsPro Media, the UFC netted a record $1.3 billion in revenue total in 2023, a 13% increase from the 2022 revenue. 

The average UFC event currently gets anywhere from 300,000 to 2 million views globally on PPV buys, according to BetMGM. The money generated from tickets for a UFC event is called the “gate.” Out of the five highest-paying UFC gates, The UFC’s 300th pay-per-view event was ranked third with a payout of $16.5 million, and the UFC’s 299th event was ranked fifth with a $13.75 million payout. These events occurred in 2024 with UFC 300 on April 13 and UFC 299 on March 9. One of the biggest factors contributing to increasing views for the sport is its marketing. The UFC has gained traction globally by showcasing its unique fighters and streaming fights worldwide. While most UFC events are held in the United States, many fighters are from other countries including Brazil, Russia and Australia. The promotion has developed a reputation for being one of the most entertaining fighting promotions and is listed by Forbes as the most valuable combat sport in the world.

Some fans have already started to talk about the sport beyond the fighters and dive deeper into what the sport stands for. Sophomore Van Hekimian felt that what the UFC was doing was great, not just for the fighters themselves but also for the fans. 

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“I think that the UFC is a great way for fighters to express their emotions in the octagon,” Hekimian said, “I really enjoy watching it and I think it benefits the fans and the fighters just as much.” 

Fighters such as Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Amanda Nunes have become the sport’s superstars and great ambassadors for the UFC. McGregor helped modernize the sport by capturing the media’s attention with his quotable comments. He’s largely responsible for the massive growth the UFC has seen in the past decade. His trash talk and entertaining karate fighting style have also allowed him to headline many of the UFC’s biggest events such as UFC 205 and UFC 229. McGregor has even taken on professional boxer Floyd Mayweather to help promote himself and MMA. While McGregor lost the fight, it still went down in history as the second-biggest boxing match of all time. McGregor has become a household name among UFC fans with him being the most followed UFC fighter on Instagram and according to Sacnilk. As of 2024, support for the fighter is polarized with some bashing him for his use of steroids and his inactivity, while others still show love to the UFC legend. English teacher Omari James gave his opinion on McGregor and what he means to the UFC. 

“I think the sentiment for him has shifted. He used to be seen as a top-tier fighter,” James said, “A lot of people feel like he stopped training once he got rich and famous; he’s a lot different now than he used to be.” 

UFC fans regarded Jon “Bones” Jones as the greatest UFC fighter of all time for his longevity and title defenses. According to Medium most UFC light heavyweight fighters become champions at age 29 to 34 and some win multiple title defenses before losing their belt. Meanwhile, Jones achieved champion status at age 23 and has never lost the belt from fighting since. Jones’ style of calculated, signature moves, such as the spinning back fist or the oblique kick, has captivated young audiences of the sport. 

Another cultivating fighter is Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov has helped open up the UFC to the Islamic world and paved the way for a wide range of fighters from Russia to enter the promotion. Amanda Nunes, known as “The Lioness,” has cemented herself as the greatest female fighter of all time and helped influence women worldwide to watch and participate in MMA. With the joint effort of all of these fighters, MMA has reached levels it has never before hit in terms of fans and athletes participating globally. The rise in popularity has paved the way for athletes to become champions and gain worldwide recognition for their fighting abilities. 

Social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram allowed the UFC to attract a large number of the younger generation to the sport as they can follow along with the variety of unique fighters and keep up with fights and UFC news. 

Emerging stars include Sean O’Malley known as “Sugar,” who has separated himself from other fighters and made his mark on the MMA stage with a colorful afro and thrilling kickboxing fighting style. Another emerging star is Ilia Topuria, known as “The Matador, ” a great contrast to O’Malley’s wild persona. Topuria is a Georgian and Spanish fighter who recently stunned the world in his fight against Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 298 on February 17, where he knocked out the defending champion in the second round and helped bring UFC gold to Spain. These athletes have helped the UFC continue to attract younger viewers and the monumental success the promotion has seen because of them will not come to an end anytime soon.

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