The MMA scene has racked up more than 450 million fans across the globe since UFC first popularized the sport back in the mid-1990s. It has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry, replete with huge broadcasting deals, sponsorships and media rights agreements.
You can buy all sorts of weird and wonderful merchandise, from a UFC hot dog brander to a replica of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s sheepskin papakha. The next frontier is to conquer the virtual world, and there are plenty of intriguing projects for MMA fans to check out:
Virtual Fighting Championship
MMA fans can train, fight and compete in an intense virtual reality fighting and fitness experience by playing VFC. The game remains in development mode, but you can enjoy early access on Steam, take part in single player contests and provide feedback to help the team finetune the offering.
The concept is exciting: using compatible VR gear, such as HTC Vive Pro, Oculus Rift or Windows Mixed Reality, you can learn your command buttons – jab, cross, hook, uppercut, overhand and backfist. Then you select your character, practice setup and combos, and choose a game mode from VFC Academy, PVP and single player, and start to work up a sweat while playing.
The game aims to use a minimal button approach to virtual reality design, and all actions are triggered by your physical motions. The developers claim that every real-world fighting and martial art move and attack is recognized in the game. Every movement and offensive technique is measured according to its velocity, distance of travel, area of impact, combinational effect to arrive at precise damage done, providing the most sophisticated physical data to the player.
Reviews have been mixed thus far on Steam among those that have taken part in demo modes, but the development team insists the final version will be far more polished and exciting.
MMA Virtual Betting
Fight fans can take part in exciting MMA virtual betting by visiting Unikrn, which initially found fame as a pioneer in the esports sector. The site includes a virtual MMA section, which allows you to enjoy live betting on simulated fights as they unfold.
Many of your favorite UFC stars are featured, including Conor McGregor, Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, Nate Diaz, Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou. For an extra dimension of excitement, the developers have also included some legendary fighters of yesteryear, so you can watch McGregor lock horns with Bruce Lee and place bets on who wins.
It allows you to bet on who will win the fight, who will land the most strikes and significant strikes, the number of strikes attempted, times stunned, method of victory, knockdowns, total rounds and much more. The graphics and the mechanics are realistic, and it can be great fun to watch. Virtual horse racing, soccer, tennis and basketball are already extremely popular, so UFC fans should be pleased to see MMA receiving the same treatment.
Streaming in Virtual Reality
Bellator launched its first virtual reality initiative all the way back in 2016, when it gave fans a new immersive, behind-the-scenes experience during Bellator 149: Shamrock vs. Gracie.
UFC 212 followed suit when it was live streamed in VR in June 2017. The action took place in the Rio Olympic Arena in Brazil, and saw Max Holloway beat José Aldo to seize the featherweight championship belt.
Fans could witness the event in high-quality, 360-degree live stream using Samsung’s VR Live Pass on Gear VR, and it proved to be a roaring success. UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein hailed VR’s potential to “revolutionize how fight fans consume our content and live events around the world”, and the promotion has continued to make inroads into the virtual space ever since.
The idea has spread across the MMA scene, and ONE Championship started releasing select bouts in VR during the coronavirus lockdown last year. The MMA promotion has now signed a global partnership deal with Facebook to ensure its 25 million-strong social media community can enjoy VR streaming on a regular basis. Rebel FC is also getting involved.
UFC Fan Tokens
Another key trend in the virtual space is the advent of blockchain technology. Bitcoin and a variety of altcoins are transforming the financial sector, while VR platform Decentraland provides users with a virtual world to explore, and the new craze for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) continues to hit headlines around the world.
UFC is getting involved in the blockchain revolution via a partnership with Chiliz, a blockchain-based fintech firm. The agreement allows you to vote on surveys and polls, and receive UFC fan tokens as a reward. You can collect these tokens, buy them, trade them, or hunt for them in an augmented reality experience similar to Pokemon GO.
The tokens can then be exchanged for “once-in-a-lifetime experiences”, such as getting closer to the biggest UFC stars. “By partnering with Chiliz, UFC now has access to a captive audience of fans from some of the biggest sporting organisations on the planet, creating an unprecedented opportunity to attract new followers,” said Chiliz founder Alexandre Dreyfus.
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