This experiment isn’t for me, or for you — it’s for a generation of ruddy-faced boxing purists who would sooner eat a boiled leather glove before sitting down for an evening staring at the Spike network, crude home of the human cockfight.
Atencio and Co. strapping themselves, Yoda-like, on the back of Golden Boy is a move designed to attract an entirely new demographic to the sport, one that hasn’t yet had the UFC logo practically seared into their brains with a branding iron. It’s a market that has yet to be directly appealed to despite their proven willingness to spend gobs of money when properly solicited. (The May 2007 Oscar De La Hoya/Floyd Mayweather snotbuster yielded 2.4 million viewers, over double that of the UFC’s biggest single-night earner.)
These fans have disposable cash and they like when athletes get punched in the face. An unholy marriage this isn’t.
I tend to think this outlook is correct, but still deeply fraught with peril.
For starters, most MMA fans cry about the need for competition and look to Affliction and EliteXC to prop up parallel universes of MMA. But by mixing top boxers and top fighters, there will be less room on these mixed cards for fighters without name power or very, vert strong prestige. No matter how you slice it, Bernard Hopkins is worth more than Dan Lauzon any day of the week. To think, then, that Affliction will be doing anything more for the sport of MMA in terms of competition requires intellectual strain and squinting.
But what of MMA fans? What will this do to them? It’s a little premature to suggest they’ll walk or not pay attention at all. But it isn’t an understatement to say the vast majority of MMA fans are not the least bit interested in boxing if not outright hostile to the sweet science. One has to think they will not be an integral component of pay-per-view purchases in an era of monthly mega-UFC events. UFC events, mind you, that don’t feature any boxing.
And no one is saying this yet, but Affliction is no longer really competition to the UFC. I’m sorry, but they are not. Affliction realized they needed something more to go head to head with the premier MMA organization in the world and so they decided upon a bold strategy to compete: add boxing. Just think about that for a second. This is quiet concession on their part that on purely MMA terms, they cannot compete. And given that the aforementioned hostile-to-boxing-loyal-to-MMA fanbase MMA promoters are dealing with, this is in no way a challenge to the notion that the UFC is the NFL of MMA.
Personally, I love both boxing and MMA. I will be watching this first event. I am quite certain very few of my MMA brethern will be joining me. The question is, will the boxing crowd stick around, too?
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