As the end of the decade nears, most people are looking back. UFC President Dana White is looking ahead.
In Sunday's Las Vegas Sun, White lays out his case for how the UFC will continue to grow for the next 10 years, to the point where, he says, by 2020 the UFC will be the most popular sports league in the world.
I absolutely agree with White that MMA is a sport more universal in its appeal than any of America's major team sports: Tell a man that the object of the sport is to win a fight, and he understands that right away. In that respect, White's comments make a lot of sense.
Think about this: Right now in the United States, there is nothing bigger than the NFL. It is huge. But the NFL has been spending billions of dollars trying to break into other countries and it's not working. You know why? Because these people in other countries don't care about American football. They didn't grow up playing it and they're not invested in American teams.
I take two guys and put them in an octagon and they can use any martial art they want - that transcends all culture barriers. Right now we are on some form of television in over 175 countries. We're all human beings and we all "get" fighting. ...
Me and Lorenzo Fertitta will sit down and figure out a game plan for the next 10 years, and we'll execute it.
So, is 10 years enough time to make this the biggest sport in the world? Hell, yeah.
But that doesn't mean MMA will ever surpass football in this country or soccer in most countries as the most popular sport. The UFC is a lot more popular heading into 2010 than it was in 2000, but even if it continues its current pace of growth for 10 more years, it won't be the most popular sport in the world. Making the UFC the world's most popular sports league is a great dream for White to have, but we're a lot more than 10 years away from that dream becoming a reality.