Back in a time before MMA fighters were household names, the sport thrived through its online community. Fight fans from around the world would log onto internet forums and share video's, information and voice their opinions on fighter's, events etc. Recognizing, and in an attempt to utilize this, the UFC introduced a 'Social Media Bonus' back in 2012; rewarding their athletes for interacting with fans online and furthering their own individual 'brand'. Yet now, only 2 years removed, the darker side of this media tool has emerged with several fighters becoming embroiled in controversy.
The question stands do we really need this real-time interaction with our favorite fighters? Some would argue, this personal contact helps fans further understand athlete's personalities and background stories, developing greater ties and thus making them more inclined to watch their latest fight. However if their social media output is in complete contrast to whatever propaganda the UFC has already produced for them, surely this detract's from their 'brands' credibility? It seems that more and more column inches in the MMA media are being designated to the latest fighter to commit a Facebook or Twitter 'faux pas', but is this a big deal? Does this effect MMA fighters credibility as professional athletes?
With the UFC, star power or PPV buys seemingly dictates the severity of punishment taken against the individual (Look to Rashad Evans and Miguel Torres for the worst example) but I believe the real danger within this is alienating potential fan bases through thoughtless ignorance; or entrusting the wrong people with your twitter passwords. Regardless of however many times we are force fed the 'fastest growing in the world' tagline, MMA is still a fledgling sport and desperately needs an ever increasing fan base to continue its plight to become fully mainstream. With that in mind, all fighters should be cautious when broadcasting opinions, sharing media or cracking jokes online; help bring positive attention to the sport and watch what you tweet!
By Rob Graham