MMA people are, by and large, really, really uncomfortable with professional wrestling. For some, it was that they were into wrestling as a kid and then ‘grew up’ into more ‘serious sports.’ I get growing out of some sort of fandom, but that really doesn’t make things any less valuable or viable as interests. We live in a world where comic book movies still crush everything else and where grown men buy toys on the regular for ‘collecting purposes.’ We also are a generation that grew up playing videogames and don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Pro wrestling has its place in the cultural lexicon and comes in a lot of shapes and sizes. Last week, in the September 1st edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer compiled a list of the top 60 most-searched “trending” combat sports athletes over the past year, compared to last year. He, of course, included professional wrestling in this because that is what he does. What’s fascinating about this is to note the trends and how there seems to be a waning popularity for the UFC. Ronda Rousey went from #6 to #7, but was still firmly behind Mayweather, The Rock, Pacquiao, John Cena and CM Punk. I’m not going to reprint the entire list because you gotta subscribe to the WON for $10 a month to see it, but I’m going to show you where the MMA fighters on the list are and where they were before.
- 6. Ronda Rousey (up from 7)
- 11. Anderson Silva (down from 4)
- 18. Jon Jones (down from 12)
- 26. Gina Carano (unranked last year)
- 29. GSP (down from 8)
- 34. Chris Weidman (down from 13)
- 39. Rampage Jackson (up from 46)
- 40. Daniel Cormier (unranked last year)
- 41. Chael Sonnen (down from 21)
- 43. Dana White (down from 35)
- 46. Miesha Tate (down from 18)
- 51. Urijah Faber (unranked last year)
- 52. Benson Henderson (up from 53)
- 54. Johny Hendricks (down from 34)
- 55. Kimbo Slice (down from 50)
On a list out of 60 only 15 people on the list are from the MMA world. Only three of those names have moved up from last year, with two coming in from being unranked. Some, like GSP, are understandable; GSP retired and left the spotlight. Someone like Chris Weidman, though? Chris Weidman defeated Anderson Silva at the end of 2013 and then in 2014 beat him again, yet his stock has gone down. Crazy, right?
You’ll probably note that there are some glaring omissions in this list. This list is missing UFC Champions! Cain Velasquez, Anthony Pettis, Jose Aldo, TJ Dillashaw (or Renan Barao) or Mighty Mouse Johnson. Professional boxers being more popular than them is understandable, but the dearth of interest for these fighters should be alarming compared to interest in some marginal professional wrestlers.
Perennial mid-carder in the WWE, The Miz, best known for his stint on the Real World what feels like a hundred years ago under his real name of Mike Mizanin comes in at number 50. He’s been featured on WWE programming, but not that seriously. At number 60 is Goldust. Yes, the son of Dusty Rhodes, Dustin Runnels, in a gimmick that was formerly that of a drag queen is more popular than most of the UFC champions online. Goldust is featured on Raw weekly, but in what is a very minor, supporting role. If anything should be a wake-up call to the UFC’s drop in popularity it should be that.
We’ve all been saying and thinking this for a while, now there are some numbers to back it up; interest in the UFC is waning. What will the UFC do to rectify this, or will they continue pretending like nothing is wrong? I’m not saying that pro wrestling is ‘right’ or anything here, but simply using this as an illustration.