ESPN’s boxing deity Dan Rafael took a moment to tweet from his throne high atop Mount Olympus, throwing these little jabs at the sport of MMA:
Personally, I don’t find Dan Rafael palatable at all. His cozy relationship with promoters and industry insiders may grant him great access, but it also gives him this inflated sense of self-worth and when you couple that with the fact that he is the “boxing guy” for ESPN, and then you get a pompous individual with an insufferable ego. He’s not a particularly likeable man. I’ve seen Rafael be a complete d*ck in person to harmless fans for reasons lost on my. Though, I do find it infinitely amusing that a man who looks and acts just like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons can walk around with such a god complex.
But, this is not a personal assault on Rafael for smarmy attitude and holier than thou mentality. No, my gripe with Rafael’s tweets (twats?) lie in his unnecessary fanning of the flames in the MMA vs. Boxing debate. I’ve covered my position on the debate ad nausem in previous posts. The two sports are unique to one another and are no more alike than soccer is to ice hockey. Even after UFC President Dana White came out and specifically addressed the fact that he was not in direct competition with the sport of boxing, myopic, uninformed individuals still maintain that there should be some sort of natural rivalry between the two sports.
I digress; the matter at hand is Rafael’s imprecations that boxing I somehow superior to MMA based on gate receipts, and not actual butts in seats. It’s sentiment echoed by the equally misinformed promoter Bob Arum who stated basically the same thing to USA Today a few months back. Look, you can’t compare the two sports as their business models are completely different. For the sake of this argument we will use the UFC as the barometer as they are far and away the most successful MMA promotion to hold events in Las Vegas.
Fact of the matter is this, big boxing events will always hold an edge in terms of live gate receipts over the lives of the UFC because their average ticket price is substantially higher. By default, your profit margin will be higher if you charge more for your product. While boxing may not be your cup of tea, the fact remains that boxing promoters charge ridiculous sums of money for ringside seats which are gobbled up by casinos as perks for their high rollers. There is still a historical level of pomp and pageantry when it comes to a high profile boxing fight and celebrities and big money players are typically found in abundance in the expensive seats. On the flip side, the UFC caters more toward a demographic that simply does not have the thousands of dollars in disposable income to spend on fight tickets. Not that the MMA audience is not economically viable, just that the demo skews younger and correct me if I’m wrong but there are not a lot of 18-34 year old high rollers in Vegas or elsewhere.
But what the UFC does better than boxing, based on this model, is actually but butts in the seats and thus creates much livelier atmosphere. It’s a number game and while the UFC could possibly get away with hiking ticket prices up, the fact that they play Target to boxing’s Nordstrom’s insures that your product is sampled by more people, thus creating a sustainable business model.
I don't want to do crazy, overpriced tickets like boxing does,” Dana White stated in a February interview with USA Today’s Sergio Non. “Somebody asked me, "How come you guys don't do gates like boxing does? $20 million, $30 million gates?" Because boxing's a completely different model.”
White continued, “That model doesn't work. Real people buy tickets to the UFC events. These guys (in boxing) did all these events in Las Vegas, and the tickets were insanely priced where fans couldn't even buy them, and the casinos bought them all up. We don't do that. We sold 55,000 tickets in Toronto to UFC fans.”
So, for Rafael to painstakingly go out of his way to throw some barbs at MMA seem petty and ridiculous. After all, you would seldom compare the average gate of an NFL game with that of a MLB game. It wouldn’t make any sense. To compare boxing and MMA’s model regarding live gates is akin to comparing apples and oranges. You would think someone who carries himself as astute as Rafael would know this.
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