UFC 286 Becomes Highest Grossing Single-Night in the History of the O2 Arena – Will Its Audience Grow in the UK to Rival Football?

Leon Edwards defends title at UFC 286 decision win Kamaru Usman

UFC 286 is a mixed martial arts event that took place on the 18th of March 2023. It was produced by the Ultimate Fighting Championship at the O2 Arena in London, England. The event featured the championship welterweight bout between Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards as the main event. 

Millions of viewers were tuned in from all over the world via ESPN and some streamed the event on their different devices. Usman was looking at reclaiming the belt from Edwards following the last face-off at the UFC 278 where he was defeated for the first time in the league. 

The UFC has made several efforts to grow the sport in the UK. In 2013 we saw UFC incorporating a former chief executive of Manchester City Football Club. He took responsibility for the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. The UFC generates 1.45 million searches on average monthly which also shows the high demand for the sport in the UK. The UFCs market also continues to grow and expand by also partnering with the likes of EA Sports and ESPN. 

On the other hand, Football is the most popular sport in the UK. It’s widely played all over the world making it easy to understand its great following in the UK. Its accessibility and deep-rooted culture play a significant role in it being widespread in the UK.  We’ll use a few factors to determine if UFC could have an audience to rival football. 

Who Earns More Between UFC and Football?

How much a sportsman earns could be used to determine the popularity of the sport. We have considered this a factor because not only does the popularity of a sport draw the masses but also draws in some of the best in sponsorship commonly determining how much they can be paid. Some might feel that the comparison of footballers’ and UFC fighters’ wages is an imperfect one since the events of each sport aren’t similar. 

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Football is a team sport and games are played quite often for 90 mins minimum. Whereas UFC bouts take place sparingly lasting way less than 90 mins. In this case, we’ll look at two athletes in great condition that have a significant media following and of course bagging huge amounts. We’ll take into account that football and UFC are two popular sporting disciplines among fans. 

Comparing two of the best earners in both UFC and football is only but a small piece of the pie in the sporting world. This is because the best odds are commonly determined by up-and-coming stars. Live football betting on 10Cric  is also a common thing as punters place their bets on some of the best events. 

We’ll look at Conor McGregor and the famous Lionel Messi. McGregor was the highest-paid sports star in 2021 based on per-minute earnings. In the three minutes in the UFC fight with Dustin Poirer, he made $26 million averaging $ 8 million per minute. On the other hand, Messi earns $ 1.25 million per week with more time on the field. 

Commonly a base salary is the smallest part of what a sportsman earns as endorsement plays a big role in earning power. Both Mcgregor and Messi earn hefty amounts from endorsements. It’s rumoured that McGregor bagged $158 million in 2021 from his endorsements. On the other side, Messi isn’t left out in this category as he has multiple endorsements from Pespsi, Budweiser, Lay’s and a lifetime agreement with Adidas. Cumulatively he bags an estimated $33 million annually.

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Looking at the bigger picture while McGregor makes huge sums in minutes his average salary is way lower. Although we feel it’s also the same for football players as they play for longer hours to earn their wages. 

Drivers of UFC’s Popularity

When it comes to sports the name of the game is consistency, persistence, passion, and staying motivated. Commonly there’ll be multiple rejections before you can find your breakthrough and that’s UFC’s story. The UFC is an American-based association that hosts multiple global superstars. UFC 1 took place in McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado.

Here are a few factors that have turned UFC into the well-renowned name it is today.

  • They promoted the event very well through advertising with the event almost selling out MGM grand arena with 13,022 people for UFC 40. The PPV was at 150,000. 
  • UFC housed some famous names and great events such as the fight between Ken Shamrock and Ortiz. Although it was reported that UFC was saved from bankruptcy by this. The most brutal fight was awarded to Forest Griffin and Stephen Bonnar.
  • They set up a reality show to showcase the up-and-coming talent that would compete for the ultimate prize which was a spot in the UFC and a six-figure contract
  • UFC also looked at branching out to other parts of the world including Japan and Abu Dhabi which now has a fight island. 
  • In 2012 UFC added some female fighters adding another department that brought in a female fanbase. The female division started with only the bantamweight division but now there’s a total of four divisions.
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Will UFC Match the Football Audience? 

Considering how far the UFC has come it’s without a doubt that it could grow in the UK to reach significant numbers to compete with those in Football. Another good thing about sports fans is that they can support several sports. The Football Audience could easily become the UFC’s audience without disrupting the numbers in football. Seldom do these events occur simultaneously.

The biggest influence on UFC’s popularity Conor McGregor comes from Europe, an even greater factor to create a mass following in the UK. UFC’s social media spoke volumes in 2020 with 28.7 million followers on Instagram, 12.2 million subscribers on Youtube, 8.7 million followers on Twitter, and 28.3 million likes on Facebook. We all know and understand the power of social media these days. 

Although their following hasn’t reached half that of football the UFC has grown significantly and even stolen some football players. The famous Conor McGregor is one such player although he used to play for amateur leagues. From his millions, it’s said that he donated to his childhood club Lourdes Celtic from Dublin. Considering that kicking is essential to participate in both sports this comes as no surprise.