While it has far more exposure and mass appeal than it did 15 or 20 years ago, MMA still isn’t on the same level as some of the country’s major sports. So if you want to fully immerse yourself in MMA, you may have to move to a specific city where it’s given the priority it deserves.
The Growth of MMA
Mixed martial arts has grown tremendously over the last quarter of a century. What was once a small niche in the fighting community has become a staple of the larger sports world. It’s no longer considered a brute, barbaric collection of fights. Instead, it’s viewed as one of the most respected forms of athletic competition in the world – and particularly in the United States.
Much of the growth of MMA is directly tied to the swift rise of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which recently signed a $1.5 billion deal with ESPN for five years and is estimated to be worth north of $7 billion. But UFC is just one part of the equation. There are a variety of MMA art forms and each has its own religious following. These include Western Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Karate, Kickboxing, Shoot Fighting, Judo, Muay Thai Boxing, Western Wrestling, Catch Wrestling, Russian Sambo, and Capoeira.
It’s the variety of MMA that draws many people in. And while each person has an allegiance to a particular style, the larger community is unified. As a result, you’ll find sizeable pockets of MMA members and supporters in specific areas.
The 3 Best MMA Cities in America
As big as mixed martial arts have become throughout the country, it’s possible to find big collections of MMA supporters in any large American city or state. However, these three cities stand out above the rest:
1. Las Vegas
It’s known as the “Fight Capital of the World,” so it shouldn’t come as a very big surprise that Las Vegas, Nevada is one of the top cities for MMA. On most weekends, you’ll find major fights taking place at dozens of venues. From large pay-per-view fights with massive seven-figure payouts to small competitions between amateurs in local gyms, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
For many years, Las Vegas has had a leg up on other cities because of its legalized gambling. As other states pass laws legalizing gambling, too, it’ll be interesting to see how this impacts the Vegas market for professional MMA fights. Regardless, you can expect the amateur scene to remain strong.
Pro Tip: If you’re a fan of MMA and like watching live fights, go off the strip. Fights on the strip are way overpriced and are typically marketed towards tourists. You can get much more value for your ticket when you go a bit further out.
Many are surprised to discover that Phoenix, Arizona is one of the leading markets for MMA. While it may not have the professional MMA presence that a city like Las Vegas has, thousands of amateurs support the area’s growing fight community.
Pro Tip: Phoenix is fairly spread out. If you’re moving to the area, it’s recommended that you buy a condo. When you buy a condo in Phoenix, you get convenient access to all of the best MMA gyms at a much lower price point than you would with an apartment or single-family residence.
3. Los Angeles
MMA is big on the West Coast. And if there’s one city that defines the MMA movement on this side of the country, it’s Los Angeles. Not only does the city host some of the world’s biggest events, but it also has dozens of private fight gyms that are perfect for enthusiasts.
Pro Tip: Every L.A. MMA gym has its own particular style. If you practice a specific MMA art form, do your research ahead of time and make sure you find the one that fits your needs and preferences.
Where Do You Fit In?
Every city on this list, as well as the dozens of other MMA towns not featured in this article, has its own unique flavor. Some cities have very specific communities that are centered on a particular MMA style, while others have more widespread appeal.
Outside of MMA, you have to think about things like location, cost of living, and jobs. Moving to a new city isn’t something to take lightly. Make sure you carefully weigh all of the factors and make an intelligent, well-rounded decision that benefits each area of your life.