MMA (mixed martial arts) has been described as one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. Yet, less than two decades ago, it was barely on the radar of most sports fans. In that short space of time, it has grown from having cult underground status to a billion-dollar industry with the top fights staged in Las Vegas and broadcast on pay-per-view all over the world.
Conclusion of an Epic Trilogy
The latest showdown will take place in Vegas on July 10 when the sport’s one true global superstar, Conor McGregor takes on Dustin Poirier in the final match of a triple-header that began in 2014. The first match was won in a single round by Dublin-born McGregor, but it was seven years before the two fought again with Louisiana’s Dustin Poirier winning the rematch by TKO in the third round. In the final act in the trilogy, there is little to split the two fighters with the Irishman priced at 100 (evens) and the American priced at -125 (4/5) in the latest Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier betting odds at Betfair.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 9, 2021
The “fastest-growing sport” claim might just be marketing talk and it all depends on how you measure such things. For example, having a high percentage growth is much easier when you are starting from a smaller number. Yet, there is no doubt that MMA has enjoyed an impressive trajectory in recent years and has shown no signs of slowing down. The fact that Conor McGregor has previously been lured into the boxing ring to challenge one of the highest-earning sportsmen of all time (Floyd Mayweather), gives a good indication of the esteem in which the sport is now held.
The Future of MMA
The fight between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier actually marks a key moment in the history of MMA. The Irishman is the sport’s biggest star and his larger-than-life character and controversial antics have helped to raise the profile of the sport to a mainstream level. But defeat in this fight would diminish his current status as one of the greats and leave him having to rely on the name alone to earn future contests. He may even decide to call it a day or put more focus into boxing where career longevity is more common.
That could leave the UFC (Ultimate Fight Championship) without its biggest star at a time when it is looking to expand its billion-dollar business model. The UFC is located in Las Vegas and has already acquired the land to construct a UFC megastructure featuring a hotel and fight venue to make the sport’s largest body totally self-sustainable. To keep moving forwards, the sport needs superstars like McGregor to capture the public’s attention. Therefore, there will be plenty in the industry hoping for a McGregor win which would open the door for a money-spinning lightweight title fight against champion Charles Oliveira.
Charles Oliveira claimed the undisputed UFC lightweight title with a thrilling second-round TKO of three-time Bellator champion Michael Chandler.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 16, 2021
Even without McGregor, the sport can expect to continue growing. Plenty of ex-fighters have gone on to become household names with many, such as Randy Couture and Ronda Rousey even becoming Hollywood film stars. It’s fair to say that the sport has passed the point where one fighter can claim to be bigger than the sport.