Boxing has been under fire in the past few years with the emerging popularity of the UFC. The causal fight fan has been more inclined to watch the various MMA disciplines than the masterful art of two-hand combat. UFC is the younger, tech-savvy brother working an internship in the Silicon Valley; where as boxing is the older, hard nose working sibling yelling at the kids to get off their yard. How is better defined? The answer lies in the views.
Adrien Broner’s fight against Adrian Granados peaked at 859,000 viewers with an average of 779,000; Showtimes best viewership since Deontay Wilder’s average of 1.24 million in January 2015. According to Forbes, Broner made $1 million off his split decision win against Granados, which is the same amount he received for his fight against Mikey Garcia.
Mikey Garcia’s past viewership is also impressive. On the under-card of Leo Santa-Cruz vs. Carl Frampton, Mikey’s bout against Dejan Zlaticanin had an average of 544,000 viewers. But how does this compare to the UFC? Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum had an average of 2 million viewers. I will mention that the numbers for Broner and Garcia are skewed because they do not include those watching on free-trail subscriptions. But would that account for the million viewership discrepancy? I doubt it.
Canelo Alverez vs. Juan Cesar Chavez Jr.’s 1.2 million pay-per-view buys surpassed the 800,000 buy-rate of the first Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier match-up. However, it is important to note that this is before the explosion of Conor McGregor. McGregor’s UFC pay-per-view debut at 189 generated a 825,000 buy-rate. Conor’s value increased drastically to: 1.2 million vs. José Aldo; 1.5 million vs. Nate Diaz; 1.65 million in his rematch against Nate Diaz; and 1.3 million vs. Eddie Alvarez. Conor McGregor brought tremendous amounts of attention to the UFC, which increased the popularity of other fighters within the organization. This is due to the marketing genius of the UFC.
We are in a day and age where people demand high quality entertainment; UFC is meeting this demand. Just look at the packed card of UFC 214. There were huge names fighting under the main event of Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier. Compare this to the Adrien Broner vs. Mikey Garcia boxing match. The under-card was extremely underwhelming. There wasn’t any emotional tie to the other fighters. The UFC’s ability to promote has taken the combat world by storm.
UFC provides viewers with short-episodes called embedded. These series of 10-minute video give an in-depth view of a fighter’s story. UFC also lumps everyone together in these episodes; an interesting tactic to gain attention to an entire card. This means that big-name fighters are contributing to those who are lesser known; for example, if Jon Jones is fighting, we also learn about the up-and-coming talent of Tonya Evinger. Boxing lacks this emotional investment. Showtime and HBO will do an episode or two on a big fight, but will only focus on the main event. This makes the choice between watching a UFC event and boxing match easy; I’ll spend my hard-earned money on an entire card rather than just one 12-round fight.
Boxing needs to learn from the UFC marketing playbook. There is a lot of talent and exciting fighters in the boxing world; Vasyl Lomachenko is masterful, Joshua Anthony and Deantoy Wilder are scary powerful, and Gervonte Davis is forceful. If boxing creates action packed events similar to the UFC, then they could reign supreme again. However, I believe both sports need to be given their due credit. We, as fans, need not choose between the two. We can embrace both boxing and MMA for exceptional talents they display.
Embracing Both Sports
Boxing is an amazing sport that requires an incredible level of skill and strategy. The tool kit is much larger for those involved in MMA. If a fighter has faster hands and better stand-up, then an attempt to grapple insures. This luxury isn’t available for boxers. If a boxer is outmatched physically, they must rely on their mental ability to confuse and overcome their opponent. They enter the ring with the same tool kit, and cannot abandon one aspect of fighting for another.
MMA is more applicable to real-life situations. There is a lot of disagreement about the statistics regarding fights ending on the ground. However, it is safe to assume that fights tend to involve a lot more than just punches. People kick, grab, hold, knee, and do just about anything to overcome an opponent. MMA values the ability to handle oneself in any position. UFC highlights the athleticism and education involved in an MMA fight. The excitement of the unexpectedness is intoxicating.
UFC excels at marketing. They are currently the go-to source for MMA entertainment. It is easy to know when and where a UFC fight is taking place. Boxing makes the inquiring process much more difficult. There are numerous promoters, broadcasting channels, venues, and platforms. Politics also run rampant in boxing, which create an underwhelming product. Fans typically wait years for boxers to fight other big names due to the vast amount of “résumé building” that goes on. Boxing is more of a business than it is a sport. If boxing wants to compete with the UFC, they need to modernize themselves. The student has now become the master.
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