The power and influence of mixed martial arts continues to make inroads into the mainstream world at large. The next bit of evidence comes from BusinessWeek, who just recently released a ranking of the 100 Most Powerful Athletes in sports.
For the first time, two MMA fighters -- Strikeforce star Fedor Emelianenko and UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar -- made the list.
The magazine teamed up with sports and entertainment agency CSE to rank athletes both on and off the field, based on their success in their sporting arena combined with their appeal to advertisers, sponsors and fans.
The top-ranking fighter was Russian star Emelianenko, who checks in at No. 83, ahead of such sports notables as racing star Danica Patrick and boxer Floyd Mayweather.
Noting that Lesnar is "an ideal fit for companies trying to get in touch with their tougher side," the UFC heavyweight champion was ranked at No. 96, ahead of such athletes as controversial Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and extreme sports star Ryan Sheckler.
Tiger Woods was the top-ranked athlete in the feature, followed by NBA superstar LeBron James, golfer Phil Mickelson, baseball slugger Albert Pujols and NFL quarterback Peyton Manning.
Sports Business Journal estimates that nearly $900 million is spent each year on sports endorsements.