Combate Americas boom in Mexico market

Combate Americas Booms In Mexico, Targeting Further Growth With New Leadership

I cover the business of sports with an MMA focus.

Combate Americas-Author’s note: In this series, FORBES SportsMoney will cover the most influential professional MMA promotions on a global and domestic (U.S.) scale, catching up with high-ranking executives to learn about each organization’s biggest business developments as 2017 gets into full swing.

We start our series with Combate Americas, a Hispanic MMA franchise founded by UFC co-creator Campbell McLaren that launched as a reality series in 2014.

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While its counterparts are focused primarily on the U.S. market. Combate Americas has quickly carved out a niche in Mexico with an eye toward further expansion in South America.

The promotion closed out 2016 with a milestone partnership, signing on with Mexican multimedia conglomerate Azteca.  Who’s broadcasts are free on TV domestically. Beginning in January, Combate began airing monthly fight cards as well as a weekly highlights show. The early reception has been staggering — an average of 3 million viewers per broadcast.

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McLaren, Combate’s founder and CEO, pointed to recent ratings from the UFC and Bellator to put that number into context.

“The UFC on Fox (23) show in the U.S. did about 3 million (rating), and Bellator (170) did about 1.8 (million rating),” McLaren said. “Mexico has less TV homes than the U.S., so we’re beating Bellator and the UFC in terms of households.”

McLaren and former pro wrestler/fighter Alberto Del Rio, who was named company president in October, are also confident Combate will supplant the UFC as Mexico’s clear-cut MMA leader sometime this year.

But they aren’t stopping at Mexico. In January, Combate 10 became the first MMA event to air on ESPN Latin America, which broadcasts to 16 countries across Central and South America. Two of those countries are already on McLaren’s radar as potential new markets.

“Columbia will probably be our next target for events,” McLaren said. “There’s also a huge MMA scene in Peru. But Columbia is a great TV market, bigger economy, bigger country, so Columbia is probably where we’re going to start in South America.”

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With Del Rio leading the charge, a lot of Combate’s business is now being conducted south of the border. But efforts to grow the brand are also coming from their braintrust back in the states. That includes lead investor Joe Plumeri, an accomplished financial services and sports industry entrepreneur who was recently appointed Board of Directors Chairman.

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