Fans of mixed martial arts, or MMA, might’ve missed a phenomenal fight this past weekend, if they’d blinked. Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, an American, knocked out Brazilian challenger Bethe Correia in the first 34 seconds of their bout in Rio de Janeiro.
“I turned around to her after I knocked her out and I said, ‘Don’t cry,’” Rousey said at a press conference following the fight.
Rousey, an Olympic bronze medalist in judo, is earning a reputation for dispensing speedily with opponents in fights organized by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the promotional company behind MMA. Rousey’s most recent fights lasted about 15 seconds each.
“It’s fast, it’s almost played in a video game mentality,” says Columbia University sports marketing professor Joe Favorito.
Mixed martial artists use wrestling and boxing techniques, along with moves from kickboxing, judo and karate. Favorito says fans differ from those of other combat sports like boxing. For one thing, they’re younger.
“It’s something that appeals to the younger demo who might not like to sit at a baseball game for two or three hours. They like the quickness of fights, and that they can be over literally in seconds sometimes,” he says.
A couple of decades ago, mixed martial arts involved a lot of “barrel-chested guys beating on each other,” according to Daniel Durbin, a sports and media expert at the University of Southern California. When MMA became more rule-based, Durbin says, it attracted more spectators.
“They had a product that you had better quality athletes performing in, and you had a product that was consistent across the country,” he says.
A product — when it involves Rousey — that can apparently be over nearly as soon as it starts.
But Stanford University economist Ali Yurukoglu says Rousey fans may not mind the fleeting nature of Rousey’s fights, even if they’re paying $60 or so to watch on pay-per-view. He says the speed with which Rousey vanquishes her opponents becomes the thrill. Mike Tyson, known for his quick knock outs, had a similar appeal back when he was popular, he says.
“You might think if it’s really short you’re not getting your money’s worth,” he says. “But I think people get it in the excitement rather than the time.”
Rousey is clearly generating excitement. Variety reports that Paramount Pictures will make a film based on her autobiography “My Fight/Your Fight,” with Rousey playing herself.
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