"I am British, but I am among the least patriotic people you will ever meet. I don't have a flag of St. George on my car, I think hereditary privilege is the oldest con in the book (which has somehow kept its head down and made it past the age of enlightenment in England), and I watch every event that I can during the Olympics only to see which individuals are the best athletes.
"Maybe it's because I grew up as something of a country bumpkin—but the prospect of fanatically supporting someone because they are from vaguely the same area as me has never really interested me that much. To be honest, patriotism often seems to bring out the worst in people in sports. Whether it's the incessant 'U.S.A.' chants, the booing of anyone against a British fighter in Britain, or the same but worse whenever the UFC rolls into Brazil."
"But I recognize, having been around combat sports for a fair while, that national pride is something which must be exploited to interest a new demographic. Certainly, nobody in the U.S, Brazil or Europe would have given a damn about PRIDE FC if it were only Japanese guys fighting each other—they already have that, it's called Shooto and next to no-one watches it.
"Sometime exploiting this patriotism means offering a fighter favourable match ups and keeping them in the public eye—as is undeniably happening with Ireland's Conor McGregor—but arguably most fighters break out when they actually reach the big time and prove themselves.
"No matter how many people I talk to in England the line which comes out time and time again is 'I got into boxing / MMA around the time x was in his prime, and I've been a fan ever since'.. Most of the people I meet will say Ricky Hatton or Naseem Hamed, or Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank, but going back further I will meet elder people who say they got in to boxing around the prime of Henry Cooper.
"In terms of mixed martial arts, whether you love him or hate him, Michael Bisping has had that effect and consequently attracted an enormous number of fans to the UFC who might not have followed it otherwise."
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