Idolising the likes of Julio César Chávez, Alexis Argüello and Marco Antonio Barrera, combat sports has always enlivened the passion of Latin American sports fans and bettors alike, in a piece for SBC Leaders, the its role in fuelling LatAm fan engagement in the region.
IMore recent times have seen evolution of the combat sports landscape and MMA has aggressively infringed upon the mainstream – being embraced by global audiences. That said, until very recently, Latin American fans just simply haven’t been fueled by the Octagon and its visceral brutality, in the same way they were by the squared circle and the 10 ounce gloves.
Change is on the horizon though, and a surge of UFC fighters from the region has captured the imagination.
As the MMA world has embraced sports betting through sponsorships and a whole host of creative activations, betting engagement – combined with regional partnerships – can also be a crucial tool in unlocking the fiercely passionate fans.
The first Mexican-born UFC champion being crowned in the flyweight division in 2021 was a moment that ushered in a new era for the MMA leader and set it on a path of seeking to captivate the Mexican fanbase. In Moreno, the promotion had the embodiment of what the Mexican audience typically adores, a courageous underdog with an immensely likeable personality.
In 2021, the UFC signed a betting collaboration in Latin America, with VeChain, and whilst it was lucrative, the firm also signed a deal with Stake.com in Latin America, however, neither fuelled the growth of the organisation in Latin America.
In more recent times, the focus on Latin America and truly fuelling the engagement of the Latin fans has been elevated – with Roobet.fun utilising specific activations with Moreno and Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera.
The fandom and adoration Latin American fans hold towards their combatants is unrivalled, they are fiercely loyal and that becomes contagious for the brands that support the athletes.
There is also a feeling that fans have been in the trenches with the fighters, if brands can back the fighters in the trenches as well and come across sincere in their support they can enliven a level of loyalty from fans that other collaborations could only aspire to.
Furthermore, the UFC is evolving its focus on the Latin American audience to a new level this year. In Las Vegas on September 16th, they filled a spot that is normally reserved for Canelo Alvarez on Mexican Independence Day.
Canelo defeated Jermell Charlo on September 30th, however, the week prior, a prestigious weekend in the Mexican fighting calendar, it’s the UFC that hosted a commemorative event.
In a bill topped by Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko, featuring a plethora of Mexican prospects all looking to utilise the platform to bolster their standing within the UFC and enhance their commercial value.
The card underlines the focus that the UFC has on engaging the Mexican fanbase, with CEO Dana White admitting they reshuffled the whole calendar to ensure that they brought a show featuring Mexican features to Mexican Independence Day.
It’s not just Mexico that has experienced a surge in MMA growth when it comes to Latin America. There’s also a wave of momentum being ridden by Peruvian MMA in recent times, as a plethora of fighters thrive from the region.
James Llontop has emerged as one of the top contenders from this series, whilst Daniel Marcos recently extended his undefeated run with a victory over the highly-touted Davey Grant.
These fighters bring a unique flair that can not only see them garner the backing of their home country, but also be escalated as global superstars. It’s a blueprint that has been set by Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera of Ecuador, who has become one of the most loved combatants in the UFC.
Vera is set to challenge Sean O’Malley for bantamweight gold at the end of the year, and if Chito can bring another strap back to the region, dethroning one of the sport’s biggest names in the process, it can increase the ceiling of potential for fan engagement in that part of the world for UFC.
As the UFC takes a more regionalised approach, focusing on growing stars and stories in Latin and South America, it undeniably elevates commercial prospects for both fighters and the organisation.
In Latin and South America, Brazil is very much the base, with long history of MMA icons, and whilst Mexico represents an obvious next step, the region is a goldmine of passionate untapped fans that
Wagering on combat sports, whether it be niche domestic promotions or the UFC, has become habitual for a whole demographic of fight-fans. This though, is significantly fuelled by content, betting podcasts and preview shows are crucial in elevating this engagement and maximising interest.
The UFC has flourished when it comes to promoting live odds on the broadcast and showcasing the best in betting content, bringing in specialist tipsters to ensure they truly engage that audience.
As the company looks to continue to deepen its footprint across Latin America, sports betting content can be vital in helping grow the audience and career-trajectory of lesser-known Latin American fighters.