The sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) was once a sport that operated on the fringes of society. Branded as barbaric and the human equivalent of cock fighting, the combat discipline was derided by almost everyone in both the political and sporting worlds.

However, fast-forward more than two decades and MMA has become the one of the biggest sports in the world. Thanks in no small part to the UFC, MMA is now watched by millions of fans around the world and it’s because of fighters such as Conor McGregor that many more millions will soon be tuning in.

sports-entertainment01by  Tanzen80

The McGregor Effect

On July 11, 2015, Ireland’s McGregor took on US fighter Chad Mendes at UFC 189 for the interim featherweight title and stunned the world with a seemingly Mohammed Ali style performance. However, it wasn’t just McGregor’s antics inside the Octagon that have made him a household name. Thanks to his brash nature, his unrelenting desire to win and his undeniable fighting skills, McGregor has made people sit up and listen.

This is something the UFC has responded to a big way and it was evident during UFC189. Aside from being the first time the fighters were wearing the new Reebok fight kit, the UFC decided to refine its output. Cleaner lines, professional looking graphics and use of live singers (Sinead O’Connor and Aaron Lewis) for the fighter’s walkout songs made this a spectacle like no other.

In fact, the McGregor effect seems to have not only forced other fighters to reassess the way they sell themselves, but pushed the UFC to rebrand itself. With McGregor on his way to becoming a mainstream star, the UFC is now in a position where it needs to be more fan-friendly and cater to the masses.

Niche vs. Mainstream Sports

sports-entertainment02by  saschapohflepp

Away from the mainstream there are a number of sports that enjoy niche crowds. Indeed, a glance at any list counting down the weirdest sports in the world reveals some crazy events you’ve probably never heard of. While the production and presentation of sports such as shin kicking and chess boxing might be perfectly adequate for the small number of hardcore fans that follow the events, it’s certainly not suitable for mainstream audiences.

This is a mentality the UFC, moreover MMA, has been forced to move away from in recent years. When the sport was a niche activity enjoyed by a few thousand fans it was okay to focus on the rough, tough nature of the sport. However, as stars such as McGregor have risen to prominence, the game has changed and the UFC has been forced to respond to that.

Stars Align for the UFC

Indeed, with the likes of Ricky Gervais tuning in to watch UFC 189, the organisation has been forced to present a more viewer-friendly package. That means more focus on sportsmanship and showmanship rather than violence. Although an MMA revolution has been brewing for a long time, UFC 189 was definitely a turning point in the game and the man helping to fuel that is, undoubtedly, Conor McGregor.

While some may still see MMA as a fringe sport, a quirky activity outside of the mainstream, athletes such as McGregor and those that support see things differently and, if you’ve ever seen McGregor working in the octagon, you’d be foolish to argue otherwise.

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The sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) was once a sport that operated on the fringes of society. Branded as barbaric and the human equivalent of cock fighting, the combat discipline was derided by almost everyone in both the political and sporting worlds. However, fast-forward more than two decades and...