– Anthony Fusco, staff

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is currently taking the sporting and fighting world by storm. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is the world’s fastest growing sport, but what exactly is the makeup of this sport, and what makes it so controversial? MMA is a full contact sport that combines a variety of martial arts including boxing, karate, Muay Thai, kickboxing, judo, wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The UFC has revolutionized the fight business and today stands as the largest MMA promoter in the entire world. UFC programming is available in over 354 million homes in more than 145 countries, in 19 different languages. It is also gaining rapid popularity in Canada. UFC 129, which was held in Toronto, sold out 55, 000 seats in minutes, and helped prove that the UFC is the fastest growing organization. UFC president, Dana White, has repeatedly called Canada the “mecca of mixed martial arts”.  He stated, “I never saw Canada coming. I never saw how popular it would be here and how big it would be. It really is the mecca.” Dana recently inked a landmark deal with FOX Sports for the right to broadcast the UFC on their channels for the next 7 years. The UFC’s and MMA’s skyrocketing popularity can be credited to White, the organization’s charismatic and sometimes controversial president.  FOX Sports Chairman and CEO, David Hill, said “If you look where Frank, Dana and Lorenzo have taken the group in the last decade, imagine what’s going to happen in the next decade. I think the growth potential is explosive.”

I am a big fan of MMA because I understand it. I was curious to see how popular this sport is among not only my peers, but people of different ages. The results I gathered from a poll I conducted gathered very surprising results. I had assumed that very few people would be in the know with regards to MMA however, that was not the case. Of the 60 people I polled, 50 knew some facts regarding the UFC and MMA, 5 were unsure what it was and only 5 had no idea what it was. The 5 who were unaware of the sport and organization were in the over 50 demographic. All of the Laurier students who were interviewed had heard of the UFC, however, when asked about their knowledge on the subject, the responses were varied. For example, Gagandeep from Rizzo stated, “I know what the UFC is, but I don’t know what it stands for” and another Laurier student, Hayley, expressed “You should experience UFC fight night down in Stratford at Crabby Joe’s. You need to book a reservation and get there hours early in order to get in. The whole restaurant is packed with fans on fight nights.” There were very few people in the poll who stood out as hardcore fans with a real knowledge of the sport. Alex, who proved he was a true fan said, “I followed MMA and the UFC before it became popular and I haven’t missed a fight in the last three years. I even have an autographed GSP poster in my room.” There was only one extremely negative response to my poll and it came from a 46 year old man named Phil who strongly expressed his opposition: “I don’t like it. It is a barbaric and blood thirsty spectacle between two people who haven’t evolved past apes.” This comment proves that there are still people who have yet to grasp the understanding and appreciation of the sport. He has no knowledge of the athleticism, training and professionalism involved. I am a true believer in this sport and I am a huge fan because I have taken the time to understand it, however, I believe that it is human nature to fear and misjudge that which we do not understand.