MMA Ratings Podcast

July 13, 2014

MMA Ratings Chat Session: Eric Kamander, MMA Ratings Founder

By Raphael Garcia

The online community that follows mixed martial arts is an aspect of the sport that is quite different from the rest of the sports world. Unlike those of other professional sporting leagues, MMA events lend themselves to fan interaction. With such a passionate base of followers, getting them involved and talking to and about their favorite personalities within the sport is key to the long-term viability of any MMA-related endeavor. MMA Ratings founder Eric Kamander came up with a way to give fans the tools to voice their pleasure or displeasure with the core of the sport: the action occurring within the cage. In this interview, Eric discusses how he first discovered mixed martial arts, the development of MMA Ratings, and the current status of the sport as a whole. 

As with many people who are immersed in the world of mixed martial arts, Eric Kamander was introduced to MMA through his own martial arts training. For nearly 10 years he participated in Goju Karate, which helped instill a love of martial arts within him that has spread to his young children. In addition, his attraction to the old kung fu movies of his childhood caused him to really take to mixed martial arts when he eventually encountered it on television.

“My first exposure was catching that occasional Strikeforce show while flipping through the channels. I did not know that MMA was going on, I didn't know about the UFC for the first ten years of its existence. My first exposure was watching kickboxing or Cung Le way back in the day.”

The Ultimate Fighter would be the catalyst that would truly catch hold, and from that point on, Eric described himself as “hooked.” He went from someone who did not follow sports at all to spending every free moment he could find embracing the world of mixed martial arts.

“I started going back and watching all of these past events that happened,” Eric explained. “I've seen them all, but I watched them all after the fact. I feel like I have seen them all, but they were all new to me at the time.”

That love for mixed martial arts, and the rabid fashion that he binged on it, caused him to want to develop some way to rate fights qualitatively on a quantitative rating scale. After a conversation about the best fight of the year, he decided that the public should play a role in rating fights as they happened. That thirst to create a substantial rating system led to the development of MMA Ratings.

“It's always just one or two people and never a public consensus. Who can remember the fight from January and February of the year. You really need to think about the fight when it happens, or at least right after you've watched it...Part of the spirit of the endeavor is that there isn't a right or wrong way to rate the fights. As long as you are really considering what you thought of it, there isn't a right or wrong way.”

As the sport grew and more events were introduced into the fold, MMA Ratings was also affected. Using the forums of popular websites such as Sherdog, Eric began to interact with other individuals who were as interested in the sport as he was at the time, and assembled a team to help grow the site. Through those efforts he brought together a group with varying backgrounds and nationalities that would write and edit various forms of content, participate in online discussions, and develop new initiatives for MMA Ratings. However, managing the project began to take up more and more of Eric's schedule, and after a while, he knew that trouble was brewing when the “demanding” pace of shows “began to consume too much” of his time. Eric decided to walk away from managing the day-to-day operations of MMA Ratings, but that did not mean the site itself was over. The team that Eric was able to develop has kept the site viable to this day.

Ironically, early on in the venture, Eric predicted that the sport of MMA would become oversaturated, and he kicked off a conversation in 2007 that is frequently held in 2014.

“I found it very hard to be a casual fan because I had to watch everything. It was an obligation that I had at the time. Now that I've been able to walk away, I started to lose track, and I started to pick and choose what events that I wanted to watch.”

As more time passed between Eric managing MMA Ratings and stepping away, he found it more difficult to stay up to date with everything that was going on in the sport. He even admitted to having zero idea of what the UFC Fight Pass platform was, and whether there was true value there.

The conversation then turned to what's next for mixed martial arts, and Eric presented an observation that would upset many of the minds behind the promotions that drive the sport:

“I believe the sport has plateaued and it will not grow any larger. The novelty of seeing a fight is gone. It has plateaued and combat sports will always be a niche sport. I don't see how it will become bigger than it currently is. I don't think there is anything that can be done to make MMA more popular.”

Eric Kamander is like most MMA fans who found themselves enthralled in the sport. Stricken with the desire to get involved in the sport, he created a platform which turned into MMA Ratings. Unfortunately, like many fans, maintaining the pace of following the sport past the oversaturation point proved too onerous, and his fandom began to wane. But even though he's stepped away from the website, his influence is still seen today. Hopefully one day the sport finds a way to bring him back to the fold.

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