The burgeoning sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
is not only taking over basic cable and pay-per-view, it's also getting a chokehold on our beloved Internet. Reason being, cage-fighting viewers want to know who the top MMA fighters are before they watch these half-naked men knock each other unconscious.
"A big part of my job is to make sure people are emotionally invested in the fighters I represent," says Ryan Parsons, who manages such popular fighters as Jason "Mayhem" Miller
and "King Mo" Muhammed Lawal
. "It's the responsibility of the fighter and management team to educate fans, promoters and sponsors on who they are and why they should care about them. When used correctly, the Internet can be a powerful medium to make this happen."
The leading MMA organization, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
, even held a summit last year to teach its fighters to be a part of the 21st century, offering lessons about Facebook, Twitter, webcams and uploading videos and pictures. More and more of these guys are now spending their time outside of the gym on social media websites, as well as inviting cameras into their daily lives to upload for their fans.
"The key is authenticity," states Lex McMahon of Alchemist Management
, which manages UFC fighters like Nate Marquardt
and Jorge Rivera
. "We try to work with who these fighters are outside of the sport and present that to the fans in the best way we can."
To reward them for there hard virtual work, we've come up with a list of the top 10 MMA fighters -- in this case, the most influential -- on the Web.
10. Michael Bisping
"The Ultimate Fighter
" season three winner Michael Bisping is pretty famous in the United Kingdom. He's been voted by best-selling men's magazines in the U.K. as both "Fighter of the Year", besting boxer Ricky Hatton
, and "Coolest Man in the U.K.", beating out Daniel Craig
and Noel Gallagher
. "The Count" has also turned over a new leaf by acting on the British soap opera "Hollyoaks
." Honestly, who knows where his fame will take him next? Maybe the Queen will name the Manchester fighter to be a real Count. Can she do that?
9. Shane Carwin
It is surreal imagining the enormous UFC Heavyweight using his heavy hands to type out hashtags on Twitter instead of demolishing other fighters' faces. Carwin's steadily growing online fanbase gets a no filter look into the fighter's life; he even posted pictures of himself in his hospital gown after his recent back surgery. Shane Carwin's no nonsense and straightforward fighting style mirrors his forthright attitude on the Internet, which has endeared him to many, many fight fans.
8. Nate Marquardt
Perennial UFC Middleweight top-contender Nate Marquardt may be addicted to the Internet. "I think it's fun," says "The Great." He comes across on his website as a genuine All-American guy who actually looks forward to working out, fighting in a cage and hearing from the adoring public. "Talking with the fans, running contests and posting pictures and videos are all things I do to help promote my brand and help my sponsors out." Marquardt has the chance to make some more international fans this weekend as he is set to face Yushin Okami
in the main event at UFC 122 this Saturday in Oberhausen, Germany.
7. Miguel Torres
If Chuck Norris
was 135 pounds and had a Mohawk, he still wouldn't be half as badass as Miguel Angel Torres. The former WEC Bantamweight Champion has a wildly entertaining Twitter feed
that bounces back-and-forth effortlessly between cutting sardonic one-liners and pulverizing warrior poetry. Torres is under the ever-expanding Ecko Unlimited MMA
banner and regularly puts out videos on their YouTube channel, including a strangely interesting one about peeling an egg
6. Wanderlei Silva
Who would've guessed someone known as "The Axe Murderer" would be so lovable in 140 characters
and UFC fighting legend, Wanderlei Silva is now murdering the Internet with heartfelt tweets to his fans and dozens of behind-the-scenes YouTube videos that are updated regularly on his "wandfightteam" channel. Keep your Google translator at the ready because Wandy regularly dips into his native Portuguese. Recently, he has set the MMA Twitterverse ablaze with a guerrilla campaign to be a coach on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality TV show.
5. Jason "Mayhem" Miller
"In the days before MMA reality shows, and before Kinko's started charging for Internet access, I would set up my laptop and stay there for hours upon hours promoting myself, telling everyone how awesome I was and why they should watch me fight," explains Strikeforce
Middleweight and host of MTV's Bully Beatdown
about how he parlayed his unique charisma into a rabid online following. "The Internet is an awesome place for anyone to connect with their fanbase, even if they have yet to create one. I rolled the cult of 'Mayhem Monkeys' into some high-profile fights, and started www.dontbescaredhomie.com
to call out a bully that hasn't had the heart to step to me one on one. I 'less than' and 'number three' the interwebs. <3"
4. Urijah Faber
At only 5-foot-6 with shoes on, Urijah Faber is a marketing Goliath. He is the face of multiple national ad campaigns for brands like K-Swiss
and Pepsi's AMP Energy
drink. There are simply not enough hours in the day for Faber, as he tweets constantly, updates his website with videos regularly, takes on new sponsorships all the time, promotes fighters under his banner Team Alpha Male
, runs contest giveaways, hosts after parties and trains for his own illustrious fight career at a new weight class (135 pounds).
3. B.J. Penn
How many people on the internet do you think want to be Facebook friends with an outspoken, fist-fighting, blood-licking Hawaiian? As of today, about 250,000. It should be no surprise that the former UFC Welterweight and Lightweight champion Penn has a very successful online following. His website has up-to-the-minute MMA news, an active messageboard and a near endless litany of videos and pictures featuring "The Prodigy." Penn has also memorably promoted his website after a few UFC fights by foregoing the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan
and is said to read his post-fight thoughts on his site and then walk out of the Octagon. No love for "News Radio
2. Tito Ortiz
Tito Ortiz has never had a problem getting people to pay attention to him. Even during pre-"The Ultimate Fighter" days of the UFC, "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" had a knack for creating buzz around his fights and was always expanding his fan base. Love him or hate him, Ortiz is a business savvy fighter who has been the CEO of his own clothing company, Punishment Athletics, for more than a decade and has the crossover appeal to appear on TV shows like NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice
." Also, Tito Ortiz procreated with the porn-mega-star Jenna Jameson
, which is definitely enough to warrant a "follow" on Twitter.
1. Chuck Liddell
No one ever told "The Ice Man" that the Internet is a young man's game. Chuck Liddell is arguably the most famous fighter and champion in UFC history. He has used this unmatched success in the Octagon to secure acting gigs, write an autobiography, and command a healthy following on Twitter
. If anything, Chuck Liddell deserves to be on this list simply for being a part of the amazing viral Reebok commercial featuring himself and his blonde bombshell girlfriend, Heidi Northcott, working out fully nude
. Well, not fully nude -- they did have the Reebok shoes on.
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