(Because violence is truly a universal language)
The UFC isn’t just for white guys with mohawks any more. According to the L.A. Times, a plan is underway to reach out to the Hispanic audience with a new Spanish-language offering, “El Octagono”. The show will reportedly be an hour-long feature including interviews, highlights, and general MMA education on cable network Galavision beginning this Saturday night.
Kenny Florian, who is involved because his parents are from Peru and because he speaks Spanish, is pretty excited about the whole thing:
“It’s important to get those fans,” UFC lightweight Kenny Florian said. “They’re so passionate about boxing, and this is very much in line with what they like about combat. We know they support Latino fighters in boxing, and now it’s just about giving them more awareness about our sport, and showing them how exciting our fights are. Awareness has been the main obstacle.”
At first you might not think that Florian is the best ambassador to the Hispanic community. Sure, he has the credentials for it on paper, but guys from upscale Boston suburbs rarely become major hits with the Hispanic audience in the fight game. But then you remember that he’s fighting Roger Huerta next, who is a perfect poster boy for this effort.
According to “El Matador”, all it’s going to take is for the audience to identify with the Hispanic fighters in the UFC. Then their love for boxing will carry over, as he describes with the following metaphor:
“I love boxing for what it is, but you see so many different things, and a higher pace, in UFC fights,” Huerta said. “You can see punching, wrestling, submissions. If boxing is like shooting a 9-millimeter, imagine adding in a bazooka and machine gun. With the more weapons we have, the interest will come around. The key thing is just to educate.”
So…submissions is the bazooka in this scenario?
But hold on just a second. Boxing promoter Bob Arum is convinced that this is not a good idea, but rather a sign of desperation on the part of the UFC.
“The reason Hispanic fans buy into it is the Hispanic fighters,” Arum said. “Brazilian is not Hispanic. Hispanic means Mexican, and how many good Mexicans, or Mexican Americans, do they have? Without that, there’s no interest. None.
“If you develop the Mexican stars, you can attract the younger Latino audience, but it seems as if that’s a long way from happening, and you don’t want to spend so much time on it that you lose your core audience: white, male, tattooed. . . .”
Arum said an endeavor like “El Octagono” fuels speculation that interest in UFC has reached a plateau.
The company doesn’t release revenue figures, such as pay-per-view buys.
“If this sport was so booming, this wouldn’t be happening,” Arum said.
Of course, the article also points out that Arum has been profiting nicely from his “Latin Fury” boxing events in Mexico. By his own logic, does that mean boxing is in trouble? Or does it mean that Arum is concerned about MMA eating into boxing’s market share south of the border, much the way it has in the U.S.?
It’s hard to see how expanding the reach and demographic interest of MMA could be a bad thing. That doesn’t mean that every boxing fan in Mexico will jump ship to watch the UFC, but it doesn’t hurt to reach out to that audience. In addition to hyping Huerta-Florian, the show also has profile pieces on fighters like Diego Sanchez, Gabriel Gonzaga, and Eddie Sanchez.
If the show is successful, we might see a UFC event in Mexico in the near future. Talk about “Octagono” control.