These days, every sport is playing second fiddle to the National Football League in terms of popularity. The league is just so popular that it even has eclipsed Major League Baseball as America’s modern pastime.
The UFC could conceivably reach the same levels of popularity as the NFL, but it has a long way to go to get there. The NFL has tons of high-profile sponsorships, and its athletes possess some of the best sponsorships in the sports realm. These sponsorships help push the league further into the mind of the fans thanks to the athletes appearing in what seems to be every other commercial on television.
Unlike the NFL, the UFC has yet to have the same type of exposure on TV. That is a crucial part to pushing the UFC further in popularity. Outside of UFC events, you barely see or hear a mention of a fighter or the sport in general.
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is the first fighter to have a major sponsorship deal here in the United States, which helps pave the way for other fighters. Now, with that deal, Jones could be pushed further into the limelight and help bring in more fans who want to see what this unknown guy on their TV is made of.
The UFC is on the right path in recruiting the next generation of men and women while becoming one of the fastest growing sports worldwide. While the NFL is hugely popular stateside, on a global level it has it’s limitations, unlike the UFC, which has moved into many markets and will invade more ground soon enough.
The UFC needs to not only keep that up, but also maintain other promotional vehicles such as the UFC Undisputed video game series and the hugely popular reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. The promotion also needs to bring its A-game when it comes to live television events.
The NFL has the luxury of having a Monday night game and also a Sunday night game that get broadcasted nationally. The UFC has its Fox and FX cards, and much like the NFL, it needs to bring its best fights to the table when it comes to those cards in order to help build the brand nationwide.
It is a hugely hard battle to win, as the NFL has become the indestructible juggernaut here in the United States, and the league is pushing hard to expand past the U.S. and Canada straight across the pond into the United Kingdom and south to Mexico.
The UFC has the edge globally, but in the end, to win the battle at home in the United States, it needs to continue what it is doing by building its fighters into recognizable celebrities and names to the normal fan. A lot of people can recognize Brett Favre or Joe Namath, but not everybody can recognize a Benson Henderson or a Jose Aldo. Until that changes, the UFC will not catch the NFL in terms of popularity.
Photo: Former football player Brendan Schaub (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)