I have recently started boxing only to realize that it’s not what the cool kids are doing these days. Not that I began training to be in vogue- I was aware of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) well before I started. But it is interesting that a sport that has remained popular for decades ever since the 1960s has all of a sudden succumbed to MMA fighting, more specifically the Ultimate Fighting Champship (UFC). A recent UFC fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos pulled in 5.7 million viewers, much higher than boxing’s biggest recent fight with 2.4 million Pay Per View buys in 2007. HBO’s Pay Per View numbers have been declining steadily ever since. While Pay Per View is still much more profitable for HBO than UFC is for network television (especially since a large audience is watching online illegally), it still points to the difference in the popularity of both sports.
Simply put, MMA is the new combat sport of choice. It is watched mainly by 18-34 olds while boxing draws a much older crowd. And it sells tons of branded merchandise. I would guess that for every person doing MMA training there’s probably 20 wannabe fighters wearing TapouT (a prominent MMA brand) t-shirts. Can’t say the same for Everlast.
Many new companies have sprung up to take advantage of the growing popularity of UFC and MMA. Companies such as Xtreme Couture and Dethrone Royalty are known for their distinctive graphic t-shirts, while others such as TapouT and Hayabusa provide gloves, hand wraps, and other fighting essentials. A brand that is notably missing, but very well positioned to jump into the MMA fray is Under Armour. It has always stood for hardcore training, and in recent years has expanded its offering beyond its distinctive microfiber clothing to footwear and outerwear. MMA and boxing (for the old-timers like me) would be a natural extension for a brand that already specializes in cutting edge training equipment. This would carve a niche in the combat sports market between the traditional competitors like Everlast, Nike and the newcomers such as TapouT and Hayabusa. And in the process it could bring some innovative new gear to the growing sport of MMA.
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