Familiar readers of this site know that I deplore the tired debate over which combative sport is better: boxing or MMA.
It’s an argument born of drunken arguments between affliction wearing meatheads at bars and of those who are seeing to prop up their preference at the expense of another’s. To put it bluntly, MMA and boxing are two different sports. Your personal preference matters not in the grand scheme of things. Despite the stark differences both sports will begrudgingly be measured against each other for decades to come.
However, despite the differences, and similarities, there is something that MMA has yet to capture and that is the cultural relevancy of a big-ticket PPV. Sure, the UFC has a PPV every month with most featuring some of the sport’s greatest fighters but outside of MMA fans do these PPVs even register a blip on the pop culture radar. Not to say that UFC 100 or UFC Rio weren’t legitimately buzz worth PPVs but even the most hyped MMA PPV falls short when stacked against a big boxing PPV.
Again, this is no slight to MMA which has repeatedly shown more growth and evolution over the past couple of years than boxing has in decades but there is just something special about a big-ticket PPV.
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Take for example this past weekend’s Floyd Mayweather – Victor Ortiz PPV. Despite most casual boxing fans knowing nothing of Victor Ortiz, the PPV was a success from a cultural relevancy standpoint. I’ve worked in an office environment for over a decade and the only times non-fight fans want to talk fights at the water cooler is following the big boxing PPVs that featured the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, of Mayweather. Because the spectacle of a big fight in boxing has been tied to the PPV model for decades, people seem to flock in droves when the hype of a fight featuring a transcendent fighter.
For all of Mayweather’s off-putting bravado and ignorant rants the fact remains he is far more recognizable than, say, Jon Jones. Even though the argument could be made that Jones is the much more entertaining and dynamic fighter he will always fall short in the popularity ratings to the brash Mayweather.
More importantly, there is a sort of sacred communal bond in relation to the big-name boxing PPV that just doesn’t exist in abundance when talking about MMA. Again, this is no doubt a byproduct of boxing’s vast edge in cultural relevancy born from its over one hundred years of being a globally recognized sport.
At the Mayweather-Ortiz fight watching party I attended there were over 20 people packed into the house. This was typically double what the same host gets for his monthly MMA PPV watching parties and in the case of this weekend, there was a much bigger female presence in attendance. Quite frankly, people knew that this fight would be the pop-culture talking point for the next couple of days and as such the most causal of combative sports observer made it a point to witness the bout.
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Right now MMA doesn’t have that time of universal fanfare. Granted, the gap is closing as MMA becomes more and more entrenched in the pop culture conscious of the world. But right now boxing is the king of PPV relevancy.
Or, as Mr. Burns from the Simpson’s eloquently puts it:
“Ah, Smithers, the big title fight is one of those rare occasions that I savor the sights, the sounds and (sniffs) ah, yes, the smells of men.”
Photo of Mayweather © Stacey Verbeek