As the world of Mixed Martial Arts rises in popularity, revenue opportunities will present themselves to those willing to capitalize on the sport’s increasing mainstream appeal.
On the nationwide level, the evidence can be seen everywhere. When TXMMA.com was established in 2001, MMA in its current form was banned in almost everywhere. Now the sport is sanctioned in almost every state in the nation, with the last major hurdle being New York. Once a pariah for marketers outside of its own industry, MMA can now boast blue-chip corporations such as Anheiser-Busch, Under Armour, Gatorade, and Burger King amongst those willing to allocate sponsorship dollars. Players with a grassroots history in the sport, such as Tapout, an MMA-apparel maker synonymous with MMA since their early days hawking t-shirts from the back of cars, generated over $200 million in revenues last year and can now be seen at big box retailers such as Walmart and JC Penney’s. Just last week it was announced that Tapout and another MMA clothing company, Silver Star, were acquired by Toronto-based Authentic Brands Group, who’s CEO, John Salter, was quoted by USA Today as predicting revenues for Tapout would double within the next two years alone.
The commercialization of the MMA industry here in Houston is evident by its bustling environment. The city now boasts an average of well over one combative sporting event per month, including MMA and Muay Thai. While much of this continuity can be credited to Mick Maynard’s established promotions, more upstart events can be seen entering the Houston market as well. Amongst them is James Gratz and Rock Long’s Puro Combate, which hopes to capitalize on the surge in popularity for MMA by catering to the strong Hispanic market in the city. Next month alone will feature no fewer than three MMA events in total (IXFA, Fight to Win, Lonestar Beatdown) for Houston and surrounding areas. Factor in the increasing regularity of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments to the scene (ala Fight to Win, Prostar Grappling, etc.) and Houston, TX has the makings of an emerging mecca for fight fans and fighters alike.
Consider this – more new gyms catering to MMA have opened in the past two years than in any other period in Houston’s history. Established gyms such as Elite MMA, Solis Martial Arts, and Gracie Barra have expanded and added new locations as well. According to the Houston gym database over on TheCageDoor.net, there are no less than 44 training facilities servicing the Houston area. Hypothesize a conservative estimated average enrollment of 100 students per gym and one can surmise, at minimum, over 4,400 individuals training in the different aspects of mixed martial arts in the Houston area alone. That’s quite the potential customer base for businesses looking to cash in.
In addition, the Houston area has also recently seen the convergence of serious professional fighters from various camps to facilities such as 4 Oz. Fight Club and Paradigm Training Center, where veterans hope to pool their resources in hopes of establishing camp credibility and nationwide prominence along the lines of Florida’s American Top Team and Northern California’s AKA. As these camps grow in stature and fighters improve in both skill and experience at high-caliber events, the reverberating exposure is sure to be felt by the entire area.
All in all, the evident growth of the MMA industry at every level will lead to a more sophisticated business climate in the years to come.
In the next installment of this column, let us take a deeper look at the business of Houston MMA as it relates to the individuals that do battle inside the cage and those that help guide their decisions.
Author’s Note – Thank you for continuing to support Houston MMA by reading my column. I wanted to let you guys know of our next charity event open for participation. If you’d like to do your part in helping within our local community, Team Houston MMA is participating in the 2010 Komen Houston Race for the Cure in order to raise money and awareness in the fight against breast cancer. As captain of the non-competitive walking team, I’d be honored if you joined us and contributed to our cause. You can also donate if your schedule doesn’t permit you to join in on October 2nd. Every dollar helps so thanks ahead of time for anyone with the heart to be a part of this.