• Angad Chowdhry

MMA Madness: What's driving the sport's popularity?

As one of the world’s fastest-growing spectator sports, Mixed Martial Arts, or more commonly referred to as MMA, has evolved over time from an activity perceived to be brutal in nature, to a skill-driven combat sport that has taken the world by storm. Today, MMA combines aspects of boxing, wrestling, and street fighting. The leading promoter of the sport’s events is Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), an organization with viewerships that average over 900k per event.

In our last MMA deep-dive, we trained our Culture AI with words from 50 Shades of Grey to generate MMA event names that were less masculine and more appealing to women and other demographics. We found that the AI-generated communications resulted in more consistent results overall.

This time, in addition to generating more club names, we decided to investigate the appeal of the sport by studying over 1000 Instagram posts of top MMA clubs and gyms such as Kings MMA academy, Blackhouse MMA, and Hard Knocks 365. Here’s what we found:

What are the top factors leading to the popularity of the sport?

Pulsating adrenaline

An average MMA fight lasts about 9 minutes, making it one of the most short-lived yet intensive sporting events. The tempo of the movements and punches combined with the occasional knockouts makes the sport an exciting spectacle to watch and an engaging, high-intensity workout to partake in. MMA athletes tend to have tremendous stamina and crave the swiftness and rigor associated with the activity.

Team building

Even though MMA is not a team sport, gyms and clubs training athletes of all levels have created a culture of togetherness and team building. Since MMA is a demanding activity, athletes constantly need encouragement and motivation which can be provided by others undergoing the same rigorous training. It is this idea of overcoming a common challenge together that appeals to those partaking in the sport. After all, success is much sweeter when shared!


Our AI detected several posts consisting of inspirational quotes and messages, encouraging the user to keep moving forward and not to give up. MMA athletes understand the challenges that come with participating in the sport- sore muscles, potential injuries, and exhaustion are just some of the after-effects of the activity. Yet, the rewards of overcoming the pain make the experience worthwhile. It is this inclination towards achieving a goal and realizing one’s potential, that makes engaging with the sport rewarding.

Inspiration from local champions

With a large and fervent fan following, UFC and MMA champions often inspire their audiences to take up the sport. Regional and state pride for most followers is unmatched, much like that for any local football team. MMA champions, especially those from smaller towns and cities in America, are role models to people wanting to take up the sport and excel in it.

MMA gym communication cues

The popularity of the sport has led to hundreds of MMA clubs and gyms opening up in the United States over the past few years. These institutions not only encourage athletes to sign up for MMA classes, but also motivate them to continue participating in the sport until they have achieved their fitness goals. Their communication cues, therefore, are a combination of flash sale offers that compel people to sign up for the sport, as well as inspirational quotes that urge them to commit to the activity in the long run.

Images of fit and ecstatic MMA’ers are frequently displayed on social media to depict the positive impact of the sport on the body and mind.

Key takeaways for brands in the space

The MMA industry is worth over $7 billion and most of the sport’s growth can be attributed to the overwhelming success of the UFC. The sport has promoted a rigid lifestyle and created a community of athletes that want to experience it. Brands must leverage this communal bond to communicate with their audience on social channels and also create a relevant environment for athletes at gyms.

Further, MMA institutions should incorporate the latest trends driving the industry, such as investing in wearable technology, hosting training sessions on mental strength and wellness, and creating focused training for kids.

We used our proprietary AI-powered ad generator, CREATE, to come up with MMA club names that would aptly signal the sport’s ethos and can be used for digital communication:

For the detailed report, get in touch with us at [email protected].