Hinging on national pride, Combate Americas could have a big 2019.
The first televised mixed martial arts event of 2019, Mexico vs. America, brought in 610,000 viewers on Univision and Univision Deportes Network, despite airing at midnight on the East Coast. The event, held in Fresno, Calif., was able to surpass Telemundo’s boxing event by 35 percent and TNT’s One Championship broadcast by more than 350,000 viewers. The ratings even bested the Liga MX Leon vs. Pumas soccer match on Sunday, featuring the fourth-most popular Mexican soccer club.
“Combate Americas is kicking off 2019 by continuing to disrupt the industry with knockout ratings, leaving our competitors dazed and confused,” said Campbell McLaren, Combate Americas CEO. “Last Friday’s return to live television on Univision is evidence that Combate Americas’ fight talent, unique format and production continue to drive a bigger and more engaged audience.”
McLaren, a co-founder of UFC, founded Combate Americas in 2011, with the matches based on pitting fighters from different nationalities against each other.
Jacqueline Hernandez, former CMO at NBCUniversal Hispanic Content and Enterprises, joined the organization a year ago as president. She’s bullish on the year ahead for the global combat sports platform.
“We’re on fire,” Hernandez said. “We usually like to be humble, but it’s great to see such a terrific rating and at midnight. I think it speaks to the power of the content and sport and that we’re doing things a little differently.”
Friday features a match between Spaniard Ignacio Capella and Mexican Álvaro Herrera.
Combat sports is a growing segment in the Hispanic community, especially among younger demographics, Hernandez said. By fielding nation vs. nation events, Hernandez said Combate Americas is able to harness the power of national pride seen among Spanish-speaking fans with soccer.
“To see it all build and do so with a real focus on celebrating the Hispanic heritage and culture is great,” she said. “And to amp up the country vs. country, drafting on that, which is so successful in futbol, rooting for their flags, is fantastic.”
To capitalize on the worldwide Spanish and English-speaking audience, Combate Americas is broadcast globally on a variety of platforms, including Univision and UDN, but also DAZN, ESPN and Facebook Watch. Hernandez also pointed to recent work with Snap.
“We’re wherever our consumers are, as fast as we can be,” she said. “We’re providing content that’s really right for each platform, we can’t just put the same content everywhere.”
Beyond the actual MMA events, Combate Americas has its own production studio, La Jaula Studios led by Stan Jakubowicz. Along with the live events, Jakubowicz, Combate Americas’ chief creative officer, also produces all the shoulder programming that helps promote the franchise outside of those live fighting events. The content spans short- and long-form video for multimedia platforms as well as reality and documentaries for broadcast channels.
Hernandez said there will be a greater focus on the shoulder content as it continues to mature.
“The stories behind these athletes are really amazing,” Hernandez said. “They’re all coming from incredible backgrounds with passion from places like Spain, Chile and Mexico. Their stories are so rich, you want to follow. They inspire, make fans aspire to be like them and watch more and more.
“Having such a global brand makes it more interesting. Not even just the athletes, but the backdrops — some of these countries are just gorgeous.”