Mixed martial arts or MMA is widely regarded as the fastest growing sport. Events fill stadiums around the world and draw vast television audiences, earning strong revenue through pay-per-view at a time when other sports have abandoned it. In 2016, the Ultimate Fighting Championship was bought by the massive talent agency WME-IMG for $4 billion. Despite this success, much of the public remains uneasy with the sport, which critics have denounced as “human cockfighting.”
Through an exploration of violence, class, gender, race and nationalism, the author finds that MMA is both an expression of the positive values of martial arts and a spectacle defined by narcissism, hate and patriarchy. The long-term success of MMA will depend on the ability of promoters and athletes to resist indulging in spectacle at the expense of sport.