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.


  1. MMA replacing boxing is another example of an evolution. Like the internet replacing newspapers, and the MP3s replacing CDs

  2. Paul Schmidt says

    As an ardant boxing supporter, I think a very key point you made is extremely flawed, and it’s about boxing not giving the matches that the public wants.

    Everyone does, in fact, want Pacquiao and Mayweather to fight. That’s not where I have an issue. I DO think where you get into misleading UFC propaganda is that fight fans were sold a bill of goods with the Mayweather/Marquez fight.

    First and foremost is that somehow everyone who is a boxing “hater” seems to forget that Mayweather hasn’t fought in almost two years after retiring. He’d stepped away from the game, he hadn’t been training for a fight, and yet he’s supposed to come back without any kind of a warmup? He was supposed to jump right in and fight the Pac-Man without knowing even if he’d lost a step, or a little hand eye coordination, or even if he still had the desire to be out there fighting? Not only is that an unfair criticism of boxing in general, but it is an unfair one for Mayweather and an irresponsibly assertion at that.

    And while the fight was a mismatch, there was some fascinating things to look for. DID Mayweather still have it (he did)? Was the old cockiness and brashness still there (it was)? Could Marquez, largely believed to be overmatched, manage to go the whole fight without being knocked out (shockingly, he did)? Would drinking your own urine somehow help in a fight (perhaps not surprisingly….no)?

    Now, after Pacquiao handles Cotto, we’ll get him and Mayweather sometime in early 2010. Everyone wins.

    As for the criticism that the Mayweather/Marquez fight being one-sided…why is that a problem? Mike Tyson’s fights were almost ALL ridiculously one-sided in his prime, but those PPV events were some of the highest rated of all time.

    As for the UFC putting out as many fights as they do per year, is that really an argument? The WWE does so as well (if not more), with similar ratings, and I don’t think that anyone would point to the demise of boxing or anything else because of it.

    Once again, the fans and supporters of UFC and Dana White in particular don’t understand the machinations of boxing and are simply too lazy to figure them out. They want their instant payoff with their shorter fights featuring more blood needlessly spilled — something boxing never was and never will be about.

  3. Wow Paul S. your comment was almost as long as the entire article. I apreeciate your PASSION and your FIRE though! I’ve actually never met anyone who ever described themsleves as a “ardent boxing supporter” but after reading your comment- yes you indeed are. Kudos

  4. I wonder what Paul thinks of Bob Arum. I’ll admit don’t know much about
    him, but I’ve learned a little bit based on his recent comments. He’s a racist, a homophobe, and as ignorant a human being as I’ve ever seen and that’s possible only scratching the surface. Perhaps it’s cronies like him that are holding back boxing more than anything.

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