By Gov Makhubela
By uMbuso weNkosi
T here is no doubt that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is one of the most violent sports in history combining various combat sports techniques such as boxing, wrestling, and martial arts. At the end of a fight, the octagon-shaped cage is often stained with unsightly blood spots of the contenders. Whether it is an extreme sport, in par big wave surfing, base jumping, Heli-skiing, ice climbing, or crocodile bungee jumping, remains a debate.
But MMA is one of the fast-growing sports in the world, and will likely catch-up to boxing bearing in mind that the latter is on a steady decline. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is by far the largest MMA organisation in the world in terms of spectator popularity and revenue. In 2017, the Stats Zone estimated that UFC was worth $4 billion. According to the UFC president, Dana White, the company’s value increased to $7 billion in 2018 after clinching a TV deal with ESPN worth $1.5 billion for five years.
The use of innovative marketing including social media strategy has helped the UFC gain more eyeballs. In 2017, pitting McGregor and Mayweather in a boxing match attracted a lot of hype amongst both boxing and MMA enthusiasts. Social and traditional media went abuzz and the contest of the titans attracted 4.3 million PPV buys.
While MMA is gaining popularity there is no doubt it has a long way to catch-up with boxing. Boxing PPV buys have been high since 2007. In 2018, UFC recorded 2.4 million PPVs when the Irishman McGregor lost to Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov. The boxing match between Mayweather and Pacquiao in 2015, dubbed the fight of the century, attracted 4.6 million PPV buys, almost twice the UFC’s McGregor Nurmagomedov PPV buys, and 300 000 higher than Mayweather vs McGregor in 2017 showpiece.
Royalty money, sponsorship, and endorsements are high in boxing compared to MMA. It is no surprise that Mayweather is the top earner in the industry with a whopping $500 billion net worth and over $1 billion career earnings. In contrast, MMA superstar McGregor’s net worth is $48 million at the age of 32 with more years to go in his career while Mayweather is now retired at age 44.
Pitting boxing fighters against MMA fighters maybe the new sporting format to boost MMA and revive boxing. But MMA and boxing are completely different types of sports. MMA is not the new boxing nor has boxing evolved to MMA.