Affiliate Marketing is Just Like Mixed Martial Arts

How affiliate marketing and mixed martial arts are essentially the same thing.

Ok, so a little bit more of a light-hearted look at the world of affiliates this month. Ahead of the team here at Equator speaking at the Performance Marketing Insights European affiliate marketing conference in Berlin in June, we’re super busy fine-tuning our presentations and brushing up on our (admittedly limited) German language skills. We have however found the time to contribute to the Equator marketing blog and this month we will look at the incredibly tenuous links between the worlds of affiliate marketing and Mixed Martial Arts. Post-ironic clickbait or factual analysis? We’ll let you decide...


Mixed martial arts, or ‘cage-fighting’ as it is sometimes derogatorily referred to as, has always had a rough time of it when it comes to public perception and acceptance. ‘Human cockfighting’, is what former US senator John McCain famously referred to it as back in 1996. When ASOS boss man Nick Robertson infamously made his ‘grubby little affiliates’ comment back in 2007, it was a similar backward-thinking overtly negative opinion of another rich old guy who really didn’t know much about the subject he was deriding. “...but aren’t affiliates just all cashback and voucher code sites???” “...but there aren’t any rules in cage-fighting!!!” You can see how these similar kinds of arguments have lead to the overall misconception of both.


Unlike boxing or wrestling, which have long-decorated histories and Olympic success stories, MMA has had to fight hard for legitimacy in the world of professional sport. Owing to a lot of general misconceptions (see previous point), it has taken years for various organisations and commissions to come together and present modern MMA as a safe, officiated and properly governed sport. Strict codes of conduct, drug-testing and medical guidelines have all been implemented to legitimise the sport. Likewise, organisations such as the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) have fought long and hard to rein the affiliate industry in, implementing a number of guidelines and advisory reports to help grow and legitimise the affiliate industry.

Relative infancy

The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is the leading mixed martial arts organisation in the world. Basically the Affiliate Window of MMA. It recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2013, which in the grand scheme of things is a miniscule moment in time compared to the storied histories of boxing, football etc. Likewise, compared to the pillars of digital marketing such as PPC and SEO, affiliate marketing is a relative newcomer in this realm.

It’s actually amazing

Get past some of the unfortunate misconceptions held about both MMA and affiliate marketing and you’re in for a treat. At its best, seeing two world-class athletes engage in a kind of human chess/violent ballet hybrid is a mesmerising experience. Likewise, seeing clients’ eyes light up when we deliver great results on ‘only pay for the sales you make’ CPA model and demonstrate a fantastic ROI is a rare treat in and of itself.