The whole concept of “pure sport” is one that was contested for a long time in the earlier days of MMA. It was clear that the UFC was heading down the path of becoming a pure sport, casting aside the entertainment and spectacle roots that helped to forge the sport’s popularity in Japan and the United States in the early days. Many fans saw this as a good thing, that the UFC needed to be taken seriously and be presented as a pure sport to gain mainstream acceptance, to compete with the likes of the NFL, NBA and MLB.
The UFC has been going full force at this pure sport stuff for a while now and their growth within the United States has seemed to hit a roadblock. Many have pointed to a poor television deal with moving from FX to Fox Sports 1, or the retirement of older, more established stars. For me, personally, I see the move to pure sport being a wrong move considering the roots of MMA and how they are just as firmly planted on the soil of professional wrestling as they are planted in the roots of legitimate fighting.
King Mo seems to share these sentiments and explained the whole thing in a recent interview with Submission Radio. In fact, he doesn’t consider the UFC to be a competitor for Bellator at this point, because Bellator is looking to gain a broader audience, including those fans who have since stopped watching MMA after UFC’s move to pure sport led to stagnation.
“I like the direction it’s going,” Lawal told Submission Radio. “As far as rivalries go, at Bellator we ain’t got no rivalries, we just worry about what we gotta do to entertain the people and entertain the fans and getting people watching us. Everybody wants to make it ‘the UFC verse everybody’. No, the UFC does their thing, Bellator does their thing. If that’s the case, I guess the NBA and the NFL have a big rivalry. No, NFL does their thing, NBA does their thing. It’s just [that] people want to make a rivalry about something.”
Not everyone is going to agree with his take, but it’s definitely an interesting conversation to have right now. MMA continues to grow internationally, but here in the US we’ve seen a decline in fandom. If Bellator does truly offer an alternative will they scoop up different fans than the UFC has? It’s at least something to think about.