Green Room

Mainstreaming the Mixed Martial Arts: An Interview with Dennis “Old School” Siggins

posted at 7:27 am on May 18, 2012 by

Over the last 19 years the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has gone from a sport appealing only to the tiniest number of Americans to being regularly featured on MTV, Spike TV, and more recently Fox Sports. Originally every fighting style against every other fighting style in a few-rules environment in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), it has transformed into a sport with weight classes, time limits, a variety of rules on striking and holds, and strong local and regional scenes which act as a feeder system for the UFC and its main competitor Bellator.

New England is the home of one such bastion of talent for the UFC and Bellator. Former UFC champions such as Tim Sylvia and fan favorites such as retired Kenny Florian and “Ultimate Fighter” winner Joe Lauzon come from the region, and with New York continuing to not allow MMA events to take place within state borders New England is one of the places to be for the mixed martial arts fan who wants to see fighters on their way up.

One of the top people in New England MMA isn’t a fighter. Known to the New England MMA community simply as “Old School,” Dennis Siggins (full disclosure: my father) is Senior Editor of NorthEastMMA.net & Proprietor of OldSchoolFightwear.com. We sat down last evening to discuss his work for the fighters of the NorthEast and how the mixed martial arts is both becoming a mainstream sport and how it can continue to expand its fan base.

 

Dustin Siggins (DS): How did you get into mixed martial arts (MMA) in the first place?

Old School (OS): I’ve been involved in the martial arts for 20 years. I got involved in martial arts for health, athleticism, and for self-defense, and started in MMA for the same reasons, especially as a fan. I started watching the UFC when it started in 1993, and when the sport grew to the point where local events were being held, I began attending.

DS: How did you get into NorthEastMMA?

OS: It started as a hobby for me. I knew the owners of the website for years, and about two years ago started writing a little bit as an associate contributor, if you will.

DS: What is NortheastMMA.net?

OS: It is a website dedicated solely to the fighters on the regional scene (New England and New York) in MMA. We have roughly 12 or 13 promotion companies that put on events in our region. Our mission statement is to cover and promote the fights and the interests of the fighters. We do previews of events, reviews, rankings and more. Our rankings are used by Bellator and the UFC [DS: the two premier MMA promotion companies in the world] to determine who is up-and-coming and who moves to the next level.

DS: You have a different style than other sites. No on-the-spot updates during fights and in-depth analysis post-events. Why this style as opposed to the traditional MMA blogging style? How does this appeal?

OS: Right now, we have 4 or 5 competitive MMA sites in New England. None of the other sites do what we do, and combined they don’t have the viewership Northeastmma.net does.

I do most of the writing for NorthEastMMA.net, including our amateur and professional rankings and most of the fight reviews. But we have other good writers who put the time in to do quality interviews and fight analysis. Other sites don’t do that. For example, my friends at WesternMassMMA.com copy and paste a lot of promotional material to their site. They are great guys who provide a great service, but they are young guys and have kids and families to worry about. My kids are on their own, so I have the time to do what I do. I conduct a lot of interviews and engage in a lot of research, and have a lot of knowledge in the game.

Of the five websites in New England, we are the one that is dedicated 100% to the fighters in the region. The other sites talk about UFC or Bellator – unless a regional fighter makes the big scene, it never gets mentioned by us.

DS: Let’s pivot to OldSchoolFightwear.com. Your T-shirts, sweatshirts, etc. don’t have cursing on them. Your message is more substantive than “Get &%$#ing Punched.” [Note: This is an actual shirt that gets sold at New England MMA events] Is this appealing to the MMA crowd, given that’s it’s so different from the norm?

OS: I think so. When we go and do events, we sell a lot of shirts. Fighters really love our shirts. They just have catchy sayings on them. Fighters are excited to get our shirts because they are different, and they are clean. You can wear them around your kids and around your parents.

DS: Your site and shirts are different from the stereotypical norm. Are you trying to appeal beyond the traditional MMA fan?

OS: Yes, in every way. I do some marketing within the industry. I am always looking to expand the market. We want fans to include families; we want to see kids, and moms and dads – give families who might otherwise go to the ball game a reason to come to the fights.

DS: Obviously, MMA is more violent than most sports, and unlike football or hockey injuries are obvious and sometimes grotesqe. How do you get around this in appealing to families? Most parents won’t want their kids seeing an arm break in person or observe a kick to the head.

OS: A lot of people don’t want their children to know that an animal is killed in order for you to have dinner. They want their kids to have a yummy burger off the grill. They are probably not going to want to come see MMA. What we’re trying to do is bring families in and show them that maybe five percent of MMA injuries occur in the cage; most injuries to fighters happen in training camp, as is typical in any sport. There are grappling tournaments and other things for kids. These young kids really know how to fight and defend themselves.

DS: What can the MMA community do to improve its outreach to non-traditional fans?

OS: The fan base is growing every day. MMA is on television every night of the week, either with live or repeat events. I think what the MMA community is in the process of doing right now is improving its image in two ways: first, demonstrating that MMA is not as violent and dangerous as some people think it is. Second, only 1% of people who train MMA get in the cage and fight. Most people do it like they do wrestling, boxing, karate, etc. – train like a cagefighter but never actually get in the cage. They are simply learning how to defend themselves. There are many levels of the sport – kickboxing tournaments, grappling tournaments, and other ways for young athletes to test themselves in the sport and see if they actually want to fight.

I think if you took some of the people most critical of our sport to a children’s grappling tournament, they’d be shocked at the athleticism and non-violence of the sport.

DS: Why are you called Old School?

OS: I didn’t have my first professional fight until I was 47, so some of the fighters started calling me that. Everyone else was 23, and I was 47.

Recently in the Green Room:

Blowback

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Originally every fighting style against every other fighting style

This statement is misleading. It was originally any style or freestyle, certainly not every style against every other style. For instance, muay thai despite it’s full-integration into modern fighters quiver, was absent the earliest bouts. There are martial arts from India, Philippines…even France. MMA will never represent all styles.

Aside from that. I like what you guys are doing. Local fight circuits are critical to MMA. MMA is now the lifeblood of every martial-arts studio. A buddy is an Aikido master; even his students love MMA.

Interesting stuff for HotAir if not a little self-promotional. 🙂

Capitalist Hog on May 18, 2012 at 12:11 PM

CapHog,

I was trying to put it in a way that could be understood by the non-MMA fan. I agree your language is better.

Dustin Siggins on May 18, 2012 at 12:51 PM

MMA is a natural fit within the Right-blogosphere, IMO. The more, the merrier. Well done, DS.

Jorge Bonilla on May 18, 2012 at 12:58 PM


HotAir — Politics, Culture, Media, 2017, Breaking News from a conservative viewpoint
Top Pick

“…the reality is the reality.”

Top Pick

These kiosks don’t make $15 per hour or need benefits

Going for the record

“We will answer them on the field”

Taking it to the limit

Sunday morning talking heads

Jazz Shaw Jun 25, 2017 8:01 AM

Health care and tweeting and Russia, oh my!

Will they stay or will they go?

I can’t imagine what I was thinking when I said that

Rocking the boat majorly

Big government never contracts. It only grows more powerful

It’s only a “ban” until it becomes inconvenient

The decline and fall of Obamacare and the AHCA

Jazz Shaw Jun 24, 2017 8:31 AM

This was all over before it began

Fixing crime in America is a complicated issue

Taylor Millard Jun 23, 2017 8:31 PM

Cops alone won’t solve it.

Victim’s father was President Maduro’s supervisor back when he was a bus driver.

Democrats forgot all about the “era of good feelings”

“Bernie and Jane Sanders have lawyered up.”

“the Judiciary Committee is examining the circumstances surrounding the removal of James Comey.”

Winning isn’t everything. It is the only thing

Trump signs VA reform bill into law

John Sexton Jun 23, 2017 2:41 PM

“What happened was a national disgrace, and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls.”

A new era of something.

“…died suddenly in less than a week just after his return to the U.S.”

The shortsightedness of “Denounce and Preserve”

Taylor Millard Jun 23, 2017 12:11 PM

Pragmatism for the sake of pragmatism doesn’t always work.

Perhaps if you threw in a new car?

Gay marriages still growing, but not as fast

Andrew Malcolm Jun 23, 2017 10:31 AM

More, but not as quickly.

Should’ve stuck with the pirate gig. It was working for him

The battle for the rubble of Raqqa is underway

Andrew Malcolm Jun 23, 2017 8:51 AM

Won’t be much left.

Your list of demands is a publicity stunt

“what happened that day was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives…”

“The jobs are still leaving. Nothing has stopped.”

Bad vendor. Bad! No cookie!

“The Corps is just starting to grapple with the issues the court has identified.”

“So you want me to sing my praises, is that what you’re saying?”

Why would we possibly want that?

“I mean he sold our country to The Russians.”

I could think of someone else you might want to ask about…

“You can ask a hundred people what hate speech is and you get a thousand different answers”