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UFC & MMA are struggling to come to terms with a new breed of fan

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THIS is supposed to be the worst feeling in MMA (©GettyImages)
THIS is supposed to be the worst feeling in MMA (©GettyImages).

Secretary of the British Kickboxing Council David Jenkins discusses his experience at the Fury #10 MMA show at the Indigo02 on Saturday evening. 

An utter disgrace. That's the only way to describe what I saw last night. The card itself was good; I had six of my own fighters on the card and a few from one of our affiliates, so I can hardly complain! 

Our rising star, Lone'er Kavanagh once again put on a "Fight of the Night" performance in his K1 rematch against Festus Ahorlu, bringing the entire crowd to their feet, and all but one of our other fighters took the win (with the one loss to a last minute KO from an admittedly well-timed left hook).

What was disgraceful was listening to the crowd. As a freestyle kickboxer, I'm as big a fan of the stand-up part of MMA as the next guy, but I still understand and appreciate the complexity and technical skill involved in the grappling elements of the sport.

Not so most of the crowd last night, as I heard repeated shouts of "what are you holding him for? Hit him!" and numerous passing remarks along the lines of "there's just no skill involved in grappling".

Now, the sport MMA has exploded in popularity around the world, with leading promotion UFC putting on shows that rival the NFL Superbowl and even the Olympics in terms of attendance and viewership.

But the sport is only just coming into its adolescence - Rory MacDonald remains one of the only UFC fighters to be considered part of the "new breed", a group who have been training in all aspects of MMA from day one, rather than being a boxer, kickboxing, ju-jitsu player or wrestler simply making the transition to the multi-style sport of MMA.

Nowhere was that more apparent than at last night's Fury MMA #10 show. Despite most of the crowd's reluctance to even attempt to understand the finer points of BJJ and wrestling, there was very little support for any of the K1 or Boxing bouts. My only conclusion, then, is that 90% of the crowd were simply jumping on the MMA bandwagon, without really understanding what it is.

I think ultimately this comes down to a lack of education. Many would argue that this is largely due to the fact that many mainstream media publications have no wish to cover the sport, despite the fact that Britain now has an increasing number of of fighters within the UFC, including Michael "The Count" Bisping and one of our old coaches - Brad "One Punch" Pickett - who was also in attendance at last night's show.

However, after the events of last night, where passions (and alcohol) boiled over to the point where an unscheduled match-up took place in the seating block to my left, I can't help but feel that its not the sport causing the problem. The fight, which I won't describe beyond saying that multiple people were involved and almost all of them were eventually arrested, left the police with no choice but to end the night prematurely, before my final two athletes (and those in the main event of the evening) could showcase their skills.

I left the arena disappointed for my fighters, disgusted at the people in the crowd who ruined the night for everyone else, and concerned for the future of MMA as a spectator sport here in the UK.

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