CAN BOXING AND THE UFC CO-EXIST?
By TOM WATT on July 16 2015
As a Boxing fan, there are a number of things I hear on a regular basis and the most common misconception is that Boxing is a dying Sport and the UFC is here to take over (I addressed the death of Boxing in a previous article here). There may be some truth behind these claims – after all the UFC does have the fastest rising fan-base of any combat sport and its popularity among younger fans is growing exponentially. The issue with that however is that being the fastest ‘rising’ sport doesn’t make you the biggest, it certainly doesn’t make you the most profitable and the real question is whether the UFC is taking over, or adding depth to popularity the Combat Sports.
Last weekend we saw the UFC’s new poster boy, Connor McGregor took to the Cage in front of a raucous Vegas crowd at the MGM, the same venue that hosted Boxing’s premier event of the year a couple of months ago on May 2nd. To give a comparison, McGregor and Mendes are reported to have received around $500,000 each for their fight, Mayweather and Pacquaio received an estimated $220m and $120m respectably. Admittedly McGregor’s scheduled fight with long-time Champion Jose Aldo fell through and had it not, the numbers would have been slightly higher, but the difference between the revenue generated by Mayweather Pacquaio and McGregor Mendes wasn’t slight, it was the equivalent of a café’s revenue vs Starbucks. Even taking away the freakish numbers created by Mayweather vs Pacquaio, this weekend’s fight between Thurman and Collazo saw the winner walk away with 3 times McGregor’s purse – and that was on free-to-air television. So it’s easy to see that Boxing is still the leader as far as combat sports go and there are other figures that back this up as well, Mexican Superstar ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has headlined two stadium shows in as many years, the same number the UFC has had in total over its entire history and in the UK last year, Carl Froch and George Groves fought in front of 80,000 fans at a sold out Wembley stadium.
As a lifelong sports fan, I have seen the emergence of MMA and the UFC as it has grown into the beast it is today, and I personally believe that a rise in the popularity of combat sports is great for everyone and there isn’t the inherent need to compete for these fans as it’s good news for everyone that the popularity is on the rise. However, the younger brother always wants to prove itself and we have seen no shortage of UFC fighters (and owner) talking about how a UFC fighter would beat a Boxer (usually Floyd Mayweather) – the problem with these claims is that they are absurd and pointless – Boxing and MMA are two completely different sports and skill sets so when McGregor or Rousey say they can beat Floyd in the cage, it’s as relevant as Tiger Woods being able to beat Roger Federer at Golf or saying that LeBron would dunk on Lionel Messi all day long on the court – of course they would, they are at the top of their own respective sports. I have no issue if McGregor or whoever it is wants to cross sports and step into the ring and truly test themselves against the people they claim they would beat, otherwise it’s a cheap move for easy publicity and nothing else and does nothing positive for either sport.
Public perception has been an issue for both Boxing and the UFC in recent times, the UFC has been battling issues with Doping etc. over the last year or so, with high-profile Champions such as Anderson Silva failing multiple drugs tests. Comparatively, Boxing has had less controversy but part of that is due to the relaxed attitudes towards testing which has been brought to the forefront of discussions in the build-up to Mayweather Pacquiao fight with Mayweather championing the introduction of mandatory, random drug tests into Championship fights, something he has campaigned for a long time. As a single organisations the UFC is able to impose stricter regulations across the board, regardless of its ease to impose regulations though, both sports need to address these issues head on to ensure the integrity of the sports remain and most of all, the safety of the competitors.
This year has seen an unprecedented level of interest in both sports, the UFC is putting on bigger shows than ever with record attendances and PPV figures Worldwide – underpinned by the emergence of stars such as Rousey and McGregor, Boxing on the other hand has benefited from the added exposure that Al Haymon’s PBC series has brought through it’s free-to-air shows that has brought high-level fights back to the masses for the first time in over a decade and with great success – last month’s non-title fight between Adrien Broner and Shawn Porter brought in over 2.3m viewers. What we can take from this information is that both Boxing and UFC can co-exist and not only that but they can both flourish alongside each other. We are only just over the half-way point in 2015 and we have seen some incredible shows across both sports and with support continuing to grow, things can only get better.
1. FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.
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