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Top 5 of the most popular sports in the last decade


Over the last 10 years, the world has seen exciting new sports. Although many sports started at a grassroots level with a handful of enthusiasts, now many professional leagues and championships, lucrative TV rights deals, and many of the top athletes have become household names.

So what are the sports that have gained popularity over the last 10 years and now dominate sport’s catalogues like older sports such as rugby?

1. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Mixed martial arts has come along way from its organized brawling roots. This is mostly thanks to the Ultimate Fighting Championship which is currently valued at $ 4bn.

Originally, the UFC was founded by four men; Art Davie, Rorion Gracie, Bob Meyrowitz and Campbell McLaren. The first event was staged in Denver, Colorado on 12th November 1993. The idea was to pitch different fighting styles against one another to see which one would come out on top.

It featured an eight-man tournament with fighters from different combat disciplines. The first event featured experts in karate, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, kickboxing, taekwondo, and boxing. The competitors fought in an octagon-shaped ring and Royce Gracie, the Brazillian Jiu-jitsu master beat 3 opponents to win.

The format that was ruleless attracted massive audiences and grew into the UFC. It is believed to be the fastest growing sport in the world today.

2. Stand up Paddle Boarding (SUP)

Stand up paddle boarding is continuing to rise in popularity thanks to its versatility. It involves standing on a surfboard and paddling. Originally, Laird Hamilton, a famous surfer started to use a paddle to catch the waves. His technique caught on, and now SUP has become a sport in its own right.

As a cross between surfing and canoeing it can be done anywhere there is water. The paddle propels you in these instances rather than waves. As well as style and technique competitions SUP fishing and SUP yoga are very popular too.

3. Adventure Racing

Adventure racing is a sport that has seen 20% year on year increases in participants in American alone with over 1 million people now competing in events.

The idea is that unmarked wilderness competitors reach a destination using a variety of disciplines which predominantly include mountain biking, trekking, and paddling. That said some events use horse riding, abseiling, climbing, white water rafting, and skiing to reach the end of the course.

It is predominantly a team game, but only events are also taking off in popularity, and many are using it to build fitness. Navigation is a big part of each event as finding the fastest and sometimes the most accessible route across wilderness terrain is a factor in who wins.

The events themselves can last anywhere from two hours to two weeks.

Karrimor International Mountain Marathon, first held in 1968 and the 1980 Alpine Ironman held in New Zealand as the first iteration of this event.

4. E-Sports

It can be argued that moving the controller around is a sad excuse for a sport but with a market worth in the region of $ 1.5bn, the rise of E-sports over the last ten years means it has forced its way into this list. There are around 200 million pro players in E-sports playing games such as League of Legends and Call of Duty.

E-Sports as a form of competition played out on a computer can be traced back to the 1950s where competitive tic-tac-toe (noughts and crosses) event were held.

Today, viewing figures have risen exponentially over the last ten years, and this led to corresponding revenue jumps. You may not think it’s a real sport, but there are many that do.

5. Drone Racing

Drone racing is a fast growing sport that is gaining popularity all the time. It takes two forms. One is aerial dogfights where competitors try and ram an opponents drone into the ground, and the other is piloting a drone through a Death Star trench like course from the Star Wars film.

In both instances pilots where googles which pick up streams from the camera positioned on the drone. This gives the pilots the impression that they are sitting on the front of the drone.

Stadiums, factories, and tents are used to build the course or host the dog fighting arena.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the market will be worth around $ 127 billion in the next 12 months or so. Starter kits for the budding drone pilot cost about $ 300 with the most expensive kits coming in close to $ 1000.

It is interesting to see the evolution of these sports over time. In the next ten years, who knows what sports will be capturing our attention and establishing the reputation.


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