One of the fastest emerging sports in the combat sports industry today is competitive mixed martial arts. The Ultimate fighting championship is an institution where the best fighters in the world compete against each other. The event I want to discuss  is a much talked about fight which is the Ronda Rousey versus Holly Holm fight.

There are three situations where we can observe the behavior of fans and their allegiance.

  • Pre-fight allegiance
  • Shocking Results or a turn of events
  • Post fight allegiance


Since Ronda Rousey has been not only the champion but an icon  in the women’s division in the sport, she enjoyed unflinching support from the general fan base consisting of regular people, professional fighters, celebrities, social media and the prediction gurus.

The contender, Holly Holm on the other hand only enjoyed support from friends, family and local home town supporters in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A turn of events:

In the second round of the fight the underdog Holly Holm wins by  a knockout victory and the fans in the arena went wild with excitement.It was as though their allegiance and support switched in a split second.

Post fight:

Holly Holm is the new champion in the women’s division and had gained support of the fans worldwide. Opinions changed really fast and a majority of Ronda loyalist fans suddenly changed to a minority and the majority had boarded the new champ’s wagon.

Why fans exhibit such behavior?

I admit that it was not only the fans that exhibited but I personally had too switched my allegiance by the end the fight. According to Nicholas Dixon this a general case of the “purist” versus “the partisan”.

“A partisan is a loyal supporter of a team which she may have a personal connection or which she may have grown to support by dint of familiarity.”

“The purist in contrast supports the team that he thinks  exemplifies the highest virtues of the game, but his allegiance is flexible.”

These characteristics can be used to observe the behavior of the fans in the arena. Those fans who switched their allegiance from supporting Ronda to Holly and I would include myself among those fans after the fight ended can be categorized as “The purist”. I mean as fans of the fighter they are rooting for initially it can not be denied that fans have a moral obligation to stay loyal continue to support even in defeat but the real reaction of the fans was quite surprising.

The others fans who were disappointed for Ronda and did not switch their allegiance either because they had a personal relation with her or saw her as their role model can be categorized as a partisan fan.

The contender who came out strong gained a huge fan base of purist fans and gained many partisan fans specially in the town of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Why the opinions changed? Were they all Purist fans?

It can be argued that there could have been a number of reasons for the fans allegiance to change. Both fighters were from different cities but were from the same country so the issue of moral obligation towards one’s geographic location was confined to just the local cities.

Many of the fans argued that before the fight started the champion did not touch gloves with the contender which in the mixed martial arts world is seen as a sign of disrespect.

According to Jim Parry one of the characteristics that define a sport is as follows:

‘that due respect is owed to opponents as co-facilitators, and so on.’

Another theory according to Nicholas Dixon,”The ideal attitude for sports fans is that of the moderate partisan, who restrains the commendable loyalty of the partisan by the purist’s insistence that the game be played skilfully, fairly and with style. While partisan support is sometimes accompanied by negative attitudes toward rival teams and their fans, the connection is contingent and being a loyal supporter is quite compatible with treating rivals with respect.”

It is possible that the fans who were initially Ronda loyalists and partisan fans transitioned into becoming “moderate partisans” or maybe they were always “moderate partisans” and the reaction Ronda received was the fruit she received from the seed that she sowed. The fans could have been simply giving the sport and its norms more respect than they gave the fighter they were supporting because it is the institution that provides a platform for these fighters to compete. Therefore if you are the champion there is a moral obligation from the champions end to uphold the norms.

In conclusion I can say that the fans ultimate allegiance is with the sport itself and the athletes themselves are a small part of the sport, they have a chance to make history in the sport but it is the institution that has a longer life. Respect for the contender could have been translated into respect for the sport and in turn that would have translated into respect for the fans of the sport.

Do you agree with the conclusion?

Do you think the fans are justified?

Please leave a comment.



  1. Nicholas Dixon, Dept. of Philosophy, Alma College, 614 W. Superior St., Alma, MI 48801, U.S.A.
    1. Ethics and Sport, edited by Mike McNamee and Jim Parry. Published in 1998 by E & FN Spon, 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE.



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