There were mixed reviews from the MMA community when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shut down the UFC Apex earlier this month to watch fights live, but Michael Bisping believes it will ultimately lead to more eyes on the sport.
Last weekend, Zuckerberg was in attendance for UFC Vegas 61: “Dern vs. Yan” and the promotion closed off the UFC Apex as a result. UFC president Dana White had kept the arrangement secret so fight fans were a little more intrigued to see Zuckerberg pop up cageside during the action.
Zuckerberg, who is an avid MMA fan, looked to be having the time of his life. He was caught screaming cageside with his wife, traveled backstage to meet Mackenzie Dern before her main event, and even snapped a photo with White that has already made the rounds on social media. The whole thing seemed to go down without a hitch.
While some questioned the motive for UFC to shut down an entire event just to host Zuckerberg others thought it was a unique experience for all involved. After all, Zuckerberg is not your typical UFC fan and has an absolute massive following. If he gains interest in fighting then there’s potential that millions of more prospective fans follow suit.
That’s exactly what Bisping believes can happen as Zuckerberg opens up a new genre of UFC fan.
“Mark Zuckerberg was in attendance. Pretty cool to see,” said Bisping on his Believe You Me podcast.
“They’re all good points, and this isn’t meant as an insult to him and it sounds like a meathead comment, but [more fans can get into the sport because of] someone that’s as nerdy as him. He’s a tech genius. You’ve seen him, and he can be described as, quote unquote, a bit of a nerd. But to see a guy like him who does have that influence, who does that wealth, who does have that power, and I don’t know what to think about Mark Zuckerberg, he’s a f—king nerd, let’s be honest, but he’s awesome because he’s there and he’s watching the UFC.
“I believe this will open up, potentially, another realm of people because MMA is hugely and wildly popular, but there’s still skeptics, there’s critics, and there’s still people that won’t give it a shot. But seeing someone that’s clearly wildly intelligent as he is, to be an admirer of the sport, and his wife is there enjoying it, it’s only going to bring in more fans.”
“[It’s] that acceptance from a wider audience, because he’s not typically who you would think [is] the ‘just bleed’ MMA fan,” Bisping later added. “My mother-in-law isn’t the typical MMA fan, but she fell in love with it straight away, and I think when people watch with an open mind, they will [too].”
This is likely not the last time we see Zuckerberg come together with UFC. It will also open up an avenue for other high-profile entrepreneurs and millionaire investors as UFC looks for other ways to expand its product.