In the last decade, MMA has exploded in popularity throughout the USA and around the world. MMA TV viewership hit a peak of 5.2 million during a UFC flyweight championship fight in 2013. More recent events have also been seen by 4 to 5 million people.
According to one study, the UFC’s total fan base grew about 14% in 2010, compared to the fan bases of other sports that same year.
In this article, we’re going to look at the demographics of typical MMA fans to help get a better understanding of who they are and what their motivations might be.
Researchers estimate that there are more than 300 million MMA fans around the world.
The UFC alone has held more than 500 events in 28 countries. It has a broadcasting reach of over a billion households in 165 countries. Its biggest fan bases are in the USA, Brazil, Russia, Australia, Mexico, China and the UK.
The most apparent recent growth has been across Asia. This is in part due to Zhang Weili’s epic 2019 performance when she became the first UFC champion of Asian descent.
Most research shows MMA fans to be overwhelmingly male. The majority of the studies we read found that MMA audiences were around 75 – 90% males and 10 – 25% females.
One dissenting study on MMA and boxing fans indicated that 44% of fight fans were female. This was an outlier that didn’t agree with the majority opinion.
The age demographic of MMA fans is around what you’d expect. Studies show the audience seems to be about 30% between the ages of 25 and 34 and another 30% between 35 and 44. There are also about 10% under 24 and 10% over 54.
The heavily represented 25 to 44 age bracket is highly sought after among marketers. This demographic tends to have lots of disposable income and an openness to shaping new brand habits.
An estimated 60% of MMA fans make under $50,000 per year, which is about normal for the projected age demographic. An additional 30% makes between $50,000 – $100,000 per year.
About 60% of the MMA audience is estimated to be white, but African Americans and Hispanics are strongly over-represented among US viewers. There are over 200% more African American MMA fans and over 150% more Hispanic MMA fans than their respective representations in the total population.
Breaking it down by ethnicity, about 15% of Caucasians say they’re casual watchers, while 8% say they’re avid fans. About 22% of Hispanics and 25% of African Americans self-identify as casual viewers, while 13% of Hispanics along with 13% of African Americans say they’re hardcore fans. Other ethnicities self-report as 20% casual and 8% dedicated fans.
Non-fighting interests that are over-represented among MMA fans include:
- Off-road vehicles
This seems to indicate that many MMA fans not only like to watch thrilling physical activity, they also like to participate in it. For example, a quarter of MMA viewers are also highly interested in off-road vehicles, which is about 10 times higher than off-road vehicle interest in the general population.
MMA fans are passionate about sports. Surveys tell us that people who watch MMA also watch more other sports than the typical sports fan. For every sport researchers looked at, there was a higher-than-usual number of fans who said they were also MMA fans.
Almost 80% of MMA fans live stream sporting events online or watch highlights after matches. Nearly 50% are avid users of sports apps.
An interesting study examining the psychological motivations of MMA fans suggested five underlying reasons most people watch MMA fights. The study was based on surveys of mostly self-selected online focus groups. The results then went through a rigorous factor analysis procedure.
The research identified these five main reasons people watch MMA:
- Knowledge application
- Vicarious achievement
- Sports betting
The main reason people said they loved MMA was that it satisfies their need for new, different and complex experiences and feelings. This kind of excitement-seeking consumer is more disposed to trying new products and brands.
This demographic also seems to enjoy developing new social relationships based around MMA. They like talking about fights with other fans, sharing experiences and discussing fighting techniques and strategies.
MMA fans also like comparing and applying their fight-related knowledge. They try to predict fighters’ strategies based on what they know about each fighter’s style. They enjoy comparing the decisions fighters make in the cage to the decisions they would make in that situation.
Many people who watch MMA feel a sense of vicarious achievement when their favorite fighters experience success. This motivation seems to be closely related to self-esteem and is found in viewers of many different sports.
Last on the list, but not least, is the economic motivation. Many MMA fans bet on MMA events in an attempt to use their knowledge of the sport to try to make money. This implies that most MMA fans have a deep understanding of the sport and its fighters, rules, techniques and styles, which is crucial to most successful wagering strategies.
The typical MMA audience is similar to other sports betting demographics. They’re mostly young males with a deep interest in their chosen sport.
The research we looked at indicated that, compared to an average consumer, MMA fans are 107% more likely to bet on sports. More than a third of typical MMA fans have used a sport betting website at some point in the last month.
The best way to develop sports marketing strategies that are effective is to better understand the people who watch those sports. The research in this article seems to indicate that MMA’s popularity will continue to rise in the coming years as the sport continues to spread around the world. We hope the data we’ve provided today has helped you get a clearer vision of the demographics of these fans.