The greatest show on Earth and other stories
Published by Ben Cartlidge on June 28th, 2012
As a busy writer you expect to receive the odd nonsensical press release from time to time and, speaking frankly, my days are often brightened by the sheer weight of superlatives contained in these communications.
Today however, I was greeted by a PR e-mail that amazed even myself regarding the next BAMMA event. The card that would have/should have/could have happened a few months back had been announced for September and a new partnership with Channel 5’s sister station 5* had also now been made official.
There was, as you would imagine, the usual exaggeration from a PR department that once described Tom Watson as the best middleweight outside of Zuffa before hastily prefixing it with a simple ‘arguably.’
It wasn’t until I read the sign off to this epistle though, that I found myself almost without words; until now that is.
BAMMA (The British Association of Mixed Martial Arts) is Europe’s premier MMA organization that launched in June 2009 with the aim of delivering Mixed Martial Arts events that fully capture the entertainment and sporting prowess on display in the world’s fastest growing sport. To achieve this aim, BAMMA brought together a team of skilled individuals with a wealth of combined experience across Television Production, Event Organisation and Mixed Martial Arts and set out to push the boundaries of MMA around the World. BAMMA’s combination of arena sized venues, stunning fight cards and exceptional production values has led to BAMMA’s unrivalled position as Europe’s leading MMA promotion and most recognisable brand. With a highly experienced team each BAMMA event always delivers a highly anticipated and unique Mixed Martial Arts experience.
It’s hard to know where even to begin with this statement but the obvious stumbling block for me is the claim of being Europe’s leading MMA promotion. There are a number of factors which any would be organization could use to validate a bold statement such as attendance, broadcast footprint, live experience or even more subjective means like fight card quality.
Logic dictates that the only fair way to ascertain the validity of BAMMA’s claim is to simply examine the facts of some of the more concrete categories.
BAMMA’s combination of arena sized venues
Arena sized venues is one thing. Half full arenas packed out with complimentary tickets, however, is another thing completely. BAMMA 9, originally scheduled to take place on February 11th and headlined by Nate Marquardt, was pushed back to March 24th and was capped by perennial favourite Tom Watson.
The atmosphere generated by the paratroopers that Jack Marshman bought with him was intense but the Welshman himself had revealed on an mma radio show previously that BAMMA had given him all the tickets for free.
Press members have often been given multiple complementary tickets at a value of several hundreds of pounds and arenas are very rarely configured to anything like maximum capacity.
None if this would be material if BAMMA’s European competitors were of a similar standard or below but KSW have regularly drawn live gates of over 10,000 and Superior Challenge shattered attendance figures in Sweden with their sixth offering drawing huge numbers to the Hovet Arena, Stockholm.
Hiring arenas is one thing, selling them out is another.
The home of BAMMA’s biggest broadcasting success is undoubtedly Bravo.
The now defunct cable channel that first bought post TUF UFC to the masses rode the crest of Alex Reid’s popularity wave to perfection.
His much hyped fight with Tom “Kong” Watson at BAMMA 4 drew an incredible 835,000 viewers but since the promotion moved to SyFy the viewing figures, as predicted, have been disappointing enough to see the company squash the event to just a one hour live slot.
The partnership with Universal Networks channel Syfy will provide the UK’s first ever full, live, non-subscription Mixed Martial Arts coverage for all five BAMMA fight’s this year, each to be held in different cities across the UK. www.syfy.co.uk
The partnership was cut short after just four events however, arguably to make room for higher drawing projects such as Crocosaurus vs. Mega Goliath. Television partnerships with HD Net, Red Media and The Fight Network were unveiled but key deals were plagued in difficulties and complications such as BAMMA 8 being unceremoniously pulled off air completely from on HD Net during a live broadcast.
BAMMA 9, however, was not available for any UK fans to watch live, most relying on online coverage from play by play sites if not attending, and was only shown in the UK via a tape delay on Extreme Sports. Shows like Cage Warriors and UCMMA also use tape delayed events but, once again, this wouldn’t be a huge issue if BAMMA weren’t perpetually boasting about being the biggest and best.
KSW recently had over 4.3 million people watching Mamed Khalidov’s last fight and Mariusz Pudzianowski’s scrap with James Thompson drew similarly titanic numbers. Cage Warriors have provided live streams through MMA Junkie and Facebook for all of their events in 2012 and have expanded their broadcast footprint to a potential 105,000,000 homes per event.
BAMMA’s deal with Channel 5 is undoubtedly great for the sport in this country and will hopefully help with the development of mixed martial arts in the UK. Their claim to be the best show in Europe however, is nothing short of wishful thinking.
The skulduggery that somehow always surrounds BAMMA through their various events and dealings is irrelevant in evaluating the strength of their claim but damning testimonies from various fighters over pay, frequent event cancellations in the UK and disjointed fashion in which their live events are all run seldom go unnoticed.
It’s to be hoped that BAMMA move forward and all the pieces fall into place before fighters tied up in multi fight deals spend their golden years waiting for their five promised fights to unfold. There is no other promotion in the UK, save for the annual UFC pilgrimage, currently delivering the ‘MMA arena experience’ but you have to ask yourself one simple question. If it was such a successful business model, wouldn’t it be the rule rather than the exception?