Saturday Night Survey

Wings, beer, and brawls

“I can’t believe there’s a wait. This is insane,” I stand on tiptoes to peer around the hostess stand for a better view of the bar. Buffalo Wild Wings is usually packed on a Saturday, most people are enjoying a meal with buddies after a hard work week, but I could care less about the beer or hand tossed boneless wings.

“Stop pacing,” says my classmate and friend, Jordan, “When a seat opens they’ll call us.”

The bar explodes in fit of cheering and applause.

“What happened?” I say jumping to see the obscured TV monitors. I finally get the right angle just in time to see the slow-mo instant replay, Josh Samman lands an epic switch kick to Corey Anderson’s face. A perfect knockout.

Beer, wings and fighting. That was the highlight of my Saturday last December 6th. Growing up as a young martial artist, I had watched several matches like these with my father. Reminiscing on old high school romances usually gives young women the school girl flutter, UFC gives me mine. Not to mention my debut kickboxing match in the wing. It was impossible to control my excitement. But I was there for a different purpose, to survey the people watching the fights. Jordan, who shared an interest in my fighting and project, served as my perfect cohort. Before every match she helped me single out the onlookers, write down stats, and keep my energy focused on the task at hand.

Before our outing, I had conducted a bit of at home research regarding the gender bias of UFC’s fan base. According to MMAPayout’s stats, of the 11,000 fans only 25% of them are female. Granted the study was conducted 4 years ago in 2010 and, according to recent news, UFC has attempted to a target larger female fan base by including women MMA matches. My goal was to see if their efforts were paying off.

When Jordan and I were finally seated at the bar, our work began. Before each match I tallied the number of both men and women actively watching the fight. Then made notes regarding the performance of the competitors, who won, and what was the deciding factor for the victor (be it knock out, tap out, or decision).

As expected, most active viewers were male, an average of 40 men for each match out of 70 total people seated in the bar dining area. The women were much scarcer, only about 7 for each fight. But those are just the bare facts. The variables are where it gets interesting.

Much like in football, when a great play happens even the least sportiest of people become interested. Whenever a match was drawn out, there was a lot of clinching (one person holding another, in this case usually against the cage), or not many punches were thrown, the number of active viewers dwindled. Even those who were avid fans found themselves looking away from the screen. But when the match was good, when fists were flying, when the competitors were energetic and feisty the whole bar became absorbed into the event. Even those who tried not watching, one group in particular containing three women and one man, found themselves glancing at the television.

Another odd fact I noted was the number of families seated in the fighting section. Buffalo Wild Wings is set up in a manner where the bar area is separated from the rest of the dining room by a giant glass wall, TV monitors on both sides to help obscure views. The bar showed the fights. The rest of the seating had football, soccer and hockey playing. One would think a family would suggest an area away from the violent space, but I saw at least three families containing younger children (between the ages of 6 and 12) seated in the UFC region. And the kids were definitely interested in what was happening on screen. It was an afterthought to casually ask them if they had participated in a sort of martial arts, ergo the seating choice for prime technique examples, otherwise it leaves me wondering if the parents didn’t see the event as “damaging.”

Overall the night was enjoyable and informative. A group of men seated next to us, separated by a half wall, became our fight buddies. Every match we would exchange casual bets on who would win and whatever the outcome, we would all share friendly high fives and hand shakes. There was a true sense of camaraderie surrounding the event, something I didn’t expect. I look forward to next Saturday, a pint of beer, a tray of wings, a full fight card, and a bar of fellow fight enthusiasts.

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