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Knit Gen Z Insights

Gen Z’s MMA & Boxing Fandom on the Rise

In our most recent study* of Gen Z’s Top 10 Sports to watch on TV, we saw Boxing & MMA crack the top 10 alongside the NBA, NFL and more.

It’s safe to say these two combat sports are on the rise with this next generation. With YouTube as their main source of entertainment, Gen Z-ers are now witnessing their favorite social content producers enter boxing (S/O Jake + Logan Paul).

But at Knit, we don’t just take the data as it is. We ask why.

Why is Gen Z migrating towards combat sports? And an even better question, what are some means for monetization? Can brands and leagues like the UFC capitalize? Let’s find out.

*Study surveyed 500+ 18-24 year-old college students across 12 U.S. states and 24 universities. The results are representative of U.S. college students under the age of 25 (95% confidence level; 5% margin of error).


How much are Gen Z actually into combat sports? 

Roughly half of Gen Z-ers identify as fans of MMA/UFC and/or boxing. But how strong is that fandom? Here’s the breakdown…


  • 8.8% consider themselves an “Avid Fan”
  • 43.4% consider themselves a “Casual Fan”
  • And 47.8% are “Not a fan at all”

For Boxing:

  • 5.6% consider themselves an “Avid Fan”
  • 43.4% consider themselves a “Casual Fan”
  • And 51% are “Not a fan at all”

We took it one step further by breaking these down by gender. It seems even with Gen Z, combat sports are being carried heavily by the male demographic. For example, 72.7% of respondents who selected “avid fan” of MMA/UFC were males. When looking at their female counterparts, only 30.1% of “casual fan” respondents were female and only 27.3% of “avid fans.”

The argument stands though – this generation is worth paying attention to as their love for MMA + Boxing grows. There is a massive opportunity to turn those casual fans into avid fans, or those non fans into casual fans, through more targeted engagement. Recently, we’ve reported on how Gen Z views sporting events as more of a social, “going out” source of entertainment – an increasingly popular viewpoint among the female demographic. Perhaps the social element gives room for Gen Z females to grow in fandom as their exposure into the sports increase during social interactions.

But why stop there. Why not dig into WHY Gen Z is gravitating to these two sports?


What excites Gen Z the most about combat sports? 

The number one reason Gen Z fandom is growing for both Boxing and MMA is due to the sport’s action-packed nature.

We’ve heard Gen Z speak often of a “white space” associated with other teams’ sports. They frequently mention downtime between action and big highlight worthy plays – like timeouts, commercial breaks, etc. But it appears with combat sports, they’re loving the constant action presented through broadcast within these sports.

Let’s break down further what’s exciting Gen Z about both MMA + Boxing…

First up… The UFC/MMA:

Which qualities excite you most about mixed martial arts/UFC?

  1. Action-packed (49%)
  2. Entertainment Value – I like the hand-to-hand combat (39.4%)
  3. Social – my friends and I get together to watch (35%)
  4. Quick Pace (30%)
  5. None (29.8%)
  6. Can wager/ place a bet (16.8%)
  7. Individual Nature of Sport (8.6%)

Which qualities excite you most about boxing?

  1. Action-packed (37%)
  2. None (35.6)
  3. Entertainment Value – I like the hand-to-hand combat (33.6%)
  4. Social (32.2%)
  5. Quick Pace (23.4%)
  6. Can wager/ place a bet (17%)
  7. Individual Nature of Sport (9.4%)

So Gen Z is engaged and growing in fandom for these sports, but what does it mean for sponsorship opportunities? Is there a gold mine waiting for brands and these leagues?

What is Gen Z’s likelihood of purchasing products from brands that sponsor their favorite sports?

Over half of Gen Z-ers (56%) are likely to purchase products from brands that sponsor their favorite sports. We see that number almost cut in half when we look at these combat sports – approximately 28% noting they are likely to purchase products from brands that sponsor MMA/UFC/Boxing. Why the discrepancy? We have an idea… 

In a previous study of ours, we’ve reported the top reasons Gen Z-ers follow a brand or influencer are attributed to 3 qualities: authenticity, humor, and expert knowledge. Taking this intel and applying it to strategic sponsorships, those that feel genuine, bring some fun, or a level of expertise, we think there’s a real opportunity to monetize these sports with the Gen Z demographic. And to bring it all back to where we started, the concept of Logan and Jake Paul just might just be secret for packing a punch with Gen Z and these sports. Keep it real & keep it fun.🥊

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