For some reason, when it comes to the sports of boxing and mixed martial arts, there continues to be an acrimonious rivalry. Not only does the rivalry exist between the powers that run each sport, but it is also among the fans of each sport. But why?
Why do boxing fans try to push the ill-conceived and totally false notion that MMA is simply legalized barbarism? Can 44 U.S. states be wrong? By the way, come on Alaska, Connecticut, New York, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Vermont!
Why is it that MMA fans like to insist that boxing is their grandfather’s sport, when every time Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather fight (maybe someday against each other, we can only hope), it’s a bigger and more talked about event than any MMA card ever put together?
Instead of trying to put the other sport down to make one stand taller, why not look at what each sport can learn from the other, so that BOTH can continue to grow across an ever-changing sports and entertainment landscape.
As a fan of each sport, and a boxing announcer for Showtime’s Shobox: The New Generation series, I can think of many good reasons why we all should get along. More importantly, I can also see a few places where each sport can help the other out, increasing the reach across the sports spectrum.
BOXING NEEDS TO REALIZE THAT IT CAN’T THRIVE IF THE FANS CAN’T SEE IT.
Exposure has been a huge part of MMA’s success. Sure, when it comes to big MMA fights, they’re often on pay-per-view, but that’s after the fighters have become household names due to MMA’s exposure across various television networks, which allows folks who don’t have premium channels to get to know and grow attached to fighters.
Where is that in boxing? There is no television channel you can turn on to catch a legitimate future boxing champion unless you have pay cable (Showtime and HBO). Even as recently as the 1980s, when newly inducted Hall of Famer Mike Tyson was coming up, you could watch him on ABC. That drew you to him, allowed you to know him, and eventually pay for his fights. That strategy is what MMA has used to get fights on CBS, Spike TV, HDNet, and Versus.
MMA ENTITIES NEED TO ALLOW THEIR FIGHTERS TO BECOME INDEPENDENT BUSINESSMEN.
Part of the reason that Mayweather and Pacquiao are so popular is because they are able to market themselves. They can appear wherever/whenever they see a business opportunity, thus taking a needed step in making themselves household names. Because the UFC has all their fighters under strict contracts—owning the fighter’s likeness and virtually all of their rights—it makes going solo impossible.
It also keeps their fighters from making the really big cash. Practically no MMA fighters make a seven-figure salary, not even some of the elite. That certainly isn’t the case when it comes to the top levels of boxing, where even with bad promoters, the top guys still get paid.
BOXING HAS TO MAKE AN ENTIRE FIGHT CARD WORTH WATCHING.
Nearly every major MMA card features a night of 10 bouts that fans want to see. Boxing cards still feature too many unexciting matchups on the under cards of the main event.
BOXING MUST FIND A WAY TO BRAND ITSELF OUTSIDE OF THE SPORT.
One of the reasons MMA got into the mindset of younger fans was its use of clothing brand tie-ins to market the sport. Brands such as Affliction and TapouT were founded with the sole purpose of having cool looking, affordable clothing that fans liked to wear.
This idea is also part of why you see fans wearing NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL gear on the street on a daily basis. Fans simply like the clothing that markets to the sport they love.
MMA SCORING SHOULD REWARD THE FIGHTER WHO DELIVERS MORE PUNISHMENT EACH ROUND.
In boxing, a dominant round—especially if it includes a knockdown—can be scored 10-8, thusly crediting the aggressive boxer. In MMA, a fighter gets no more advantage on the judges’ scorecards for pressing the action and beating up his opponents than the opposition does for sitting on him once he’s on the canvas.
In effect, a fighter can win a bout by laying on his opponent for two rounds, even though he gets completely battered for one round. To change this would be fairer to the participants and more exciting to the fans who want to see action, not stalemates.
Hey, these are just a few thoughts from a fan of both boxing and MMA who would love to see all of us getting along.