If website visitation is any indication, there is a new sport around that is capturing the hearts of U.S. consumers. The “UFC”, or Ultimate Fighting Championship, attracts a greater number of visitors to its website than the organizations that run professional golf, soccer, bowling, and tennis. And if hockey doesn’t fire up its zambonis soon, it appears that the NHL will be the next sport to be KO’d.
Much like the NFL is the largest professional football league, the UFC is the largest promoter of a combat sport named mixed martial arts (MMA). Competitors are allowed to not only punch like in boxing, but also kick, knee, elbow, slam, and choke their opponents. It’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea (my mother is not a fan), but enough interest has been building in the sport that nearly a million U.S. consumers visit the UFC’s website each month.
The sport’s detractors have called the UFC a flash in the pan, but the growth in consumer interest doesn’t show any sign of slowing. As of this writing, the UFC is the fastest growing sport in America, with a 106% year over year increase in online interest. The NHL, rebounding nicely from a holdout-cancelled 2004-2005 season, was a distant second with 35% growth.
Where can people go to get a taste of what the UFC has to offer? Good timing: this Saturday night (4/21) on the cable channel Spike TV, the UFC is airing a free event. Not a bad deal since a typical UFC card is $40 on pay-per-view. Headlining is a bout between a Croatian, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, and a Brazilian, Gabriel Gonzaga.
It will be a clash of styles as the 22-4 Filipovic prefers to stand and kickbox, while the 7-1 Gonzaga will try to bring the fight down to the ground and utilize jiu-jitsu. Filipovic is the odds-on favorite, and viewership of each fighter’s profile page on UFC.com backs this up. Compete data shows that 27,000 people clicked to view Filipovic’s profile, compared to 12,000 for Gonzaga. Good luck Gabriel, I wouldn’t want to be you tomorrow night.