Boxing Incapable of Competing With MMA Powerhouse


By Vlad Kaganovsky

Whether using Pay-Per-View buys (PPV hereafter) or TV ratings and mainstream hype as the litmus test, MMA has unquestionably surpassed boxing as the most popular fight sport. In a short span of about 10 years, the UFC, as the global ambassador of MMA, transformed itself from a bankrupt company into an organization that sells more PPVs than boxing and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) combined. Yet, this does not surprise many in the fight game. Both the structure and marketing of boxing have been heavily criticized in the past, to the point that Dana White, president of the UFC, has stated that the UFC was built upon the mistakes that boxing promoters have made over the years.

From a fan’s perspective, boxing is disgracefully impotent in a very key aspect; namely, showcasing matches that feature the best fighters fighting each other. Whether due to quarreling promoters or the multitude of weight classes and divisions, marquee boxing matches rarely feature the best fighters fighting against each other. Instead, as evidenced most recently in past Saturday’s Mayweather vs. Marquez match, promoters ultimately settle on matches that have the most perceived drawing power but little competitiveness. The Mayweather vs. Marquez fight was completely one-sided, and although official PPV stats aren’t yet known, boxing’s chase for PPV sales coupled with a disregard for the fans’ desire to see the best fighters fight each other, have and will continue to lead to declines in sales for boxing.

MMA in general, and the UFC in particular, attempts to feature the best fighters fighting against each other, creating an incessant desire from the fans to always see the “best of the best” compete against each other. In order to achieve this, the UFC has been able to successfully bring together most of the best fighters in the world. Once contractually bound to the UFC, promoters, agents, and other factors that influence the cards and fights in boxing are removed. When a fan orders a UFC event and witnesses a title fight, they can be sure that the fighters involved are among the top three fighters in that weight class in the world. muay_thai_10

Another glaring problem with boxing, and one that makes it incredibly difficult to promote standout athletes and fights, is the abundance of weight classes and title-granting organizations. Four major sanctioning bodies exist in boxing, each with its own title for every weight.

Furthermore, there are numerous (between 11 for the Olympics and 16 elsewhere) and often-inconsistent weight classes in boxing, compared to the five simple weight classes in MMA. Between all the weight classes and sanctioning bodies, it is extremely challenging for boxing to gain a following from casual fans and inhibits boxing’s ability to attract new fans. Fans need to be able to follow a sport’s key figures and champions without having to diagram a permutations matrix. The simple structure of MMA weight classes (only 5) and the governing body (the UFC or the whichever organization it may be) allows for effective marketing that quickly generates fans.

Whether due to the intrinsic structural flaws in the sport of boxing or the raw mass appeal of mixed martial arts, the numbers show that boxing’s fall from preeminence has arrived and is here to stay. While Mayweather’s last fight against Ricky Hatton generated around 1.5 million PPV buys, UFC 100 generated 1.72 million buys. Yet, comparing event vs. event doesn’t even begin to tell the story of MMA’s dominance over boxing.

Boxing and its promoters can barely muster up one or two shows that are even worthy of a PPV slot per year. Even if their numbers are great for these shows, the UFC has managed to air 10-12 PPV shows for the past two years, with no sign of slowing down. In fact, UFC management is only planning to increase the frequency of UFC PPVs.

Regardless of how epic a boxing match can be, boxing simply can’t compete with the output of MMA with one or two shows a year and they don’t have the ability to promote more shows because their simply isn’t a PPV market, or any market for that matter, to see no-name fighters from so-and-so league with so-and-so title facing off against each other. One can simply argue that an MMA fight is simply more interesting and entertaining than a boxing match due to the various styles and techniques that can be employed, but at this point one need not even make this argument since boxing’s inability to consistently showcase fights that fans want to see has and will continue to lead to boxing’s demise.