Since BAMMA hosted their first event in June 2009, they have come a very long way. They have played host to fighters such as Paul Daley, Frank Trigg, Jim Wallhead, Tom Watson, Che Mills, Gunnar Nelson, War Machine, Ricco Rodriguez, Murilo Rua, Andre Winner, Jimi Manuwa, Joey Villasenor, Curt Warburton and Jason Jones as they continue to build their reputation as the UK’s premier MMA organisation. They’ve hosted events up and down the country in some of the UK’s biggest arenas and managed to get a broadcasting deal with Channel 5, which with the right marketing should elevate them to unheard of exposure in the UK.
Thus far, BAMMA has been reluctant to spend the big bucks on UFC rejects and their cards are mostly flooded with young, home-grown talent who have hopes of one day joining the UFC. Tom Watson made his name in BAMMA through his brawl with Alex Reid, stoppage of John Maguire and stunning knockout of Murilo Rua. He rightfully earned a reputation as one of the best and most exciting fighters on the UK circuit and he followed that up after he transitioned to the UFC with a widely entertaining brawl with Stanislav Nedkov that earned him Fight of the Night and Knockout of the Night. Other fighters such as Gunnar Nelson, Jimi Manuwa and Colin Fletcher used BAMMA as a means to reaching the UFC, showing that BAMMA features good quality fighters regularly.
Because of the deal with Channel 5, more people are paying attention to British MMA than they ever have. A network deal like this is pivotal to break into the mainstream and BAMMA is going to be many people’s entry point into Mixed Martial Arts in the United Kingdom, something that is quite the accomplishment. Signing Paul Daley to an exclusive three fight deal is going to mean big things for the promotion over the next year as an exciting, marketable stud like Daley is the perfect fighter to build your company around. Daley gets people talking and his presence will put more eyes on the BAMMA product, which can only be a good thing.
Where many fight companies fall down is with their production values, but luckily BAMMA looks first class and they clearly have an excellent team behind the scenes. The events are hosted by the excellent OJ Borg and various commentators such as the legendary Ken Shamrock, Frank Trigg, Bret Freeman and Michael Schiavello have been used to make the show the highest quality possible. Voices and names people know and relate to is a must for a promotion looking to grow and BAMMA have been very astute in their signings thus far.
Over the next year, I expect BAMMA to go from strength to strength and continue to grow as an organisation, which will mean the state of UK MMA will further improve, which is what is really needed if we want the sport to breach the mainstream. Many of the pieces of the puzzle are already in place, but with a few smart fighter signings, some apt marketing on the part of Channel 5 and continued fan support, there’s no reason as to why we can’t see more mention of UK MMA in mainstream sports news outlets. BAMMA are still only an infant organisation, but their growth has been rapid and the support feverish, meaning they’re going to be around for a long time and that can only be good for British MMA.