Fame MMA is an official Polish Federation that organises various MMA fights amongst influencers, YouTubers, rappers and other celebrities. Does this sound familiar to something? Perhaps YouTube boxing?! I appreciate both YouTube boxing and Fame MMA have taken place in different parts of the world, but I can’t help notice clear synergies between the two initiatives. YouTube boxing has revolutionised the combat sports landscape, whereas Fame MMA has delivered the same but to a smaller degree. This weeks blog will explore the similarities between the two projects and what they demonstrate about the direction that the sports industry is heading towards.
Fame MMA and YouTube Boxing are two current campaigns that have differentiated the traditional combat sports world. February 2018 saw the first amateur YouTube boxing match between UK creators KSI & Joe Weller which has grown into a commercial enterprise for boxing. In June 2018, Fame MMA’s first bout saw Pro fighter Michał “Boxdel” Baron take on streamer Jakub “Guzik” Szymański. Since then, the franchise has expanded into the UK where other personalities such as gamer JMX and reality TV stars like Georgia Harrison, Sam Gowland and Dapper Laughs have fought in front of thousands of spectators.
How has this happened? Well, we live in an era where digital media has become influential at representing a brand’s online presence. The creators, influencers and celebrities named above have established themselves during a period where digital is at its peak, meaning their audiences are intensely engaged in their endeavours. However, YouTube boxing from a commercial perspective has proven to be more successful than Fame MMA. YouTube boxing has generated millions of online views, record PPV buys for white-collar boxing and attracted international exposure from various broadcasters including DAZN, Fite.com and Sky Sports.
Why might this be? Those who’ve participated in YouTube boxing have a much higher online presence than those associated with Fame MMA. With content creators like KSI, Logan & Jake Paul, AnesonGib is withholding millions of online followers compared to personalities like JMX, Georgia Harrison and Sam Gowland. Effectively, this demonstrates the difference in leverage between content creators and influencers in modern-day. YouTube is a broader platform where you’re likely to identify individuals creating a variety of different content, branching themselves to more diverse consumers through entertainment. Whereas influencers typically establish themselves through the reality TV route. Meaning it’s a tighter avenue to break through attracting an arguably more niche demographic.
This has led to YouTube boxing opening a macro-production behind its growth, with the backing of significant broadcasters including Sky Sports, DAZN and Fite TV delivering the fight through their mediums. Whereas Fame MMA took a different strategy to host an exclusive PPV avenue for consumers to broadcast their UK event, meaning they had fewer mass-marketing channels to communicate their occurrence to and fewer audiences to reach. Hypothetically, this is the domino effect of hosting an event with personalities that obtain niche audiences, meaning that global sports bodies are unlikely to demonstrate an interest in a micro-production with a low likelihood on ROI.
From the potential identified with YouTube boxing’s unprecedented growth, this has provided an authentic narrative for the campaign. It began with KSI and Joe Weller wanting to settle their issues in the ring, resulting in KSI winning. The Watford creator decided to call out US social media star Logan Paul at a time where he’d been involved in some controversial antics in Japan. In the latter part of 2018, KSI and Logan saw themselves receive a majority draw which happened to crush PPV buys, media distribution and online awareness to boxing. Late 2019 saw an official announcement by Matchroom boxing to turn this narrative into a professional fight, seeing KSI and Logan Paul fight again at one of boxings most respected venues, the Staples Center. KSI was victorious against Logan in the rematch, which drew Logan’s brother Jake Paul into the picture who is desperate to seek redemption for his brother loss. Jake would have this shot as long as he fights KSI’s friend and YouTuber AnesonGib, where the US personality beat him in one-round. In 2021, it’s highly-likely that KSI and Jake Paul will continue this innovative story to shock the world one more time.
The element of a narrative lacked with Fame MMA. It appeared to draw influencers who had first appeared on popular TV shows such as Love Island and Geordie Shore more than 2-3 years ago. It’s arguable that Fame MMA could’ve been inspired by YouTube boxing’s incentive and MMA wanted to localise this broad movement in combat sport.
What can we learn from these two projects? It’s clear both campaigns have the right idea, they brought something unorthodox into the sports industry, which will naturally garner attention. However, to create something sustainable, it requires narrative, macro-awareness and results to evidence this consciousness. This is an edge that content creators have over influencers, they’ve built their foundations through a broader medium, gradually making a more extensive audience segment compared to the avenue of reality TV. Plus, the sports industry has built a relationship with content creators hugely outside of boxing, meaning its connection has leveraged a new wave of entertainment.