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The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has renewed its partnership with Nicholas “Nickmercs” Kolcheff to host the second annual MFAM Gauntlet at UFC X. This time, he’ll be facing Call of Duty esports legend Seth “Scump” Abner.
This creator-led competition will culminate in a five-vs-five match with teams captained by Kolcheff and Abner. They will be joined by JoeWo, Alexia Raye, Tommey, ZooMaa and the Baka Bros (DiazBiffle, Repullze and LuckyChamu).
The final spot is up for grabs. One UFC X attendee will earn their way into the action on July 7 by competing against content creators in a variety of games. The next day, the winner will compete live on stage in front of thousands for their cut of the $100,000 prize pool. Win or lose, the fan will get VIP tickets to UFC 290. Fans that can’t attend in-person will be able to watch the MFAM Gauntlet live on Twitch.
Details on the format for both the fan qualifier and the final competition have not been announced. The rules will be a surprise “to encourage fair competition.”
The MFAM Gauntlet will be Kolcheff’s first in-person appearance since Activision Blizzard removed his Nickmercs operator bundle from Call of Duty earlier this month. Critics viewed his comments on a brawl that took place outside of a Glendale, California, school board meeting debating how gender and sexuality should be covered in the district as anti-LGBTQ+, especially during Pride Month.
Kolcheff made a second statement clarifying his feelings saying “Ain’t no hate in this heart.”
Despite this controversy, other creators have stood by him. Most notably, TimtheTatman requested that Activision Blizzard remove his own operator bundle from Call of Duty, which the publisher honored.
TimtheTatman and Nickmercs are long-time friends and have collaborated frequently. The two faced each other in last year’s UFC MFAM Gauntlet, which averaged about 40,000 viewers and peaked at 122,000. While Nickmercs and Scump are friendly, they have not collaborated at this scale before.
The UFC itself is no stranger to controversy and is less sensitive towards brand safety than most partners.
Additionally, Kolcheff’s fans, the MFAM, have rallied behind him since he returned to streaming. Nickmercs regained about 13,000 subscriptions following a 10-day break. He ended his last stream with over 50,000 active subscribers — which translates to a net gain of about 7,000 Twitch subscribers since the controversy began.
According to Rainmaker.gg data, Nickmercs’ average viewers for his most recent three streams is 75% greater than his average from January 1 to June 8. Prior to this, he was Call of Duty: Warzone’s most watched streamer, but the category’s viewership as a whole has not changed significantly without him.
A spokesperson confirmed that Nickmercs clarified the intent behind his statement with both the UFC and Scump and reiterated that it was not motivated by hate.
Bridging the gap between gamers and sports fans
This partnership is yet another example of “traditional” sports leagues reaching out to gamers and building bridges between these fandoms. Based on Nickmercs’ previous deals with the UFC, the NFL and Under Armour, he has carved out a niche as one of the go-to creators that appeals to both gaming and sports fans.
While this move will be criticized, the event is designed to celebrate this shared audience. Both Kolcheff and Abner are fans of the UFC. The two are welcoming the opportunity to celebrate everything that unites FPS players and UFC fans. Having a fan compete alongside themselves and Call of Duty’s most recognizable personalities puts that fandom front and center.
“I wish I had opportunities like this when I was coming up,” said Kolcheff. “We’re bringing nothing but positivity, healthy competition and a big bag to Vegas for the MFAM Gauntlet. I can’t wait to get back in front of the crowd, play and give one skilled fan a shot at $100,000. The Gauntlet at UFC X on July 8th is going to be crazy!”
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