When you compare boxing and the UFC, the comparison many might instantly make the is the classic one: apples and oranges. However, this is highly inaccurate, since oranges are wholly different from apples, whereas the UFC has boxing as one integral cornerstone of its skill set. A better comparison would be California and the United States: regardless of whether or not you like California, it is an integral part of the United States.
Let’s face facts: boxing is on the decline, and the list of potential heroes who could help resurrect it from its ashes, while not too short, do not seem to either (a) realize the peril their sport is in, or (b) are too selfish to care. For simplicity, I will focus on Floyd “Money” Mayweather, but he is only one of many who could potentially salvage the sport. Mayweather has been dodging Manny Pacquaio for a few years now: first it was an overly harsh stance on drug-testing, now it is a refusal to admit that Manny is a better draw and pay him 50-50. In the small view, he has the right to try to hold out for more money, but in the big picture, this could potentially deny the sport of boxing its greatest showcase in many years; a showcase that could help bring it back from the precipice it is increasingly leaning over. Worse than that, is that the sport has fostered this attitude for a long time. The final straw, when you compare it to the UFC and MMA, is that boxing is hard to return to once you go there, since by comparison, it is one dimensional.
The UFC, the leader in MMA, has evolved since its formation: it was originally a brawling event (dirty or drunken boxing), then a wrestling competition (Brazilian jiujitsu), until the two were integrated; other elements, such as clinching and karate, have entered the mix as well, and there are always new styles and methods emerging from new corners. While some matches are boring, the same of which can be said for boxing or any sporting event, there is always that element of “what strategy will the fighter use?” that makes the match worth watching. A fighter who usually engages in trading punches may out of the blue take his opponent down and try to submit him; a wrestler may stun his opponent, and the UFC at large, by throwing a knock-out punch that wins him the match. That multi-dimensional, “anything can happen” mentality prevents the sport from ever becoming too dull; it is one reason why the UFC has become so prevalent: they have a cable deal with Fox to air special events; FX not only airs the UFC’s reality show, The Ultimate Fighter, but also preliminary fights to the UFC’s major Pay-Per-Views; and the big daddy for the UFC, the Pay-Per-View’s themselves. They also have merchandise, expos, and other major revenue sources. One reason they keep buying MMA organizations is that they actually do not have enough fighters to satiate demands as they expand.
The major market for the UFC is young men, and they hit that market pretty good. However, one reason why the UFC has been so successful, as well as taking substantial market room from boxing, is that the UFC arose just as social media was kicking in, and it capitalized on it. Prior to being on Fox, they had a solid arrangement with Spike TV which focused, as a network, on their target age market, and succeeded at serious gains there.
Now, there are drawbacks to the UFC: they do not necessarily pay their fighters as much as the fighters are worth, something we know of vaguely, but not too well. Dana White, the UFC President, has a great business mind, but can be blunt and harsh with regard to the men under contract. Boxing does not have this problem. However, enough time has passed that if you want to enter the UFC, you have some idea of what you are getting into, which doesn’t make it right, but brings up the point that unlike many of their predecessors, the men entering today cannot say they haven’t been forewarned of what lays ahead.
One area where boxing is far behind is the safety of the fighters: the classic ten count, whereby a fighter may get up and keep fighting after sustaining a bad injury, is fine, except that if that injury is to the head, you are welcoming serious brain damage. The UFC may be more brutal in some respects, but when you cannot defend yourself, the fight is over; my dad makes the joke that the referees probably train at knocking fighters out of the way to end the fight, but if it were true I’d say the UFC is better for it. Additionally, the ability to win by means over than knocking your opponent out leads to fewer concussions, which in the grand scheme of things (and the smaller as well) is a great thing.
Perhaps boxing will come back, but it will take a lot for that to happen. In the interim, the UFC will roll on, continuing its drive to become one of the major sports institutions in America, and around the world.