The Ultimate Fighting Championship is, in the eyes of younger audiences who didn’t grow up on boxing, the next big thing in combat sports. UFC has, to the company’s credit, done well to expand itself to a global audience, utilizing a combination of pay-per-view events and, in later years, free television shows in attempts to appeal to casual sports fans who may have in the past seen mixed-martial-arts as being too barbaric for their tastes. What was once a form of entertainment that could not get PPV rights in certain markets is now shown in sports pubs around the world at least one weekend per month.
While the UFC has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past two decades, the perceived death of the sport that is referred to as the “sweet science” has been greatly exaggerated. Fans living in the United States, as an example, can find live boxing on multiple free cable television stations throughout the calendar year. Over-the-air NBC is even bringing boxing back to its weekend prime-time schedule, taking viewers back to a time when “the fights” were as much a part of your Saturday evening as is enjoying a casual dinner and/or meeting up with friends at a bar to celebrate the fact that you do not have to work the next day.
UFC, to the company’s credit, does tremendous business every year, but 2015 is on the verge of once again proving that is it boxing that is the world’s top pay-per-view draw until further notice. It will take a special UFC card, one with at least two significant main events, to even come close to matching the boxing pay-per-view that is going to occur this coming May. That fight could do as much as three times the business that the highest-selling UFC card of all time pulled off back in the day.
10. It Has More History
Comparing UFC with boxing is similar to comparing North American top-flight Major League Soccer with Major League Baseball. While the popularity of soccer in the United States is growing at a faster rate than is the following for baseball, baseball remains far more a part of American culture than MLS, and the comparison rings true for UFC vs. boxing. There have unquestionably been some greatest UFC performers since the company first became part of the national discussion, but none of those men are even close to being in the same class of superstar level occupied by the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson and so many others.
9. It’s More Widely Available
There is more UFC on worldwide television than ever before, and multiple live events take place every month of the year. Boxing, meanwhile, gives you weekly editions of Friday Night Fights on the ESPN family of networks. NBC is about to go all-in on boxing, promoting a card on its over-the-air network in an attempt to build the NBC Sports brand. Add in HBO World Championship Boxing and Showtime Championship Boxing, not to mention overseas fights that can be watched via streaming websites, and boxing fans can go 52 weeks a year without having to yearn for live action.
8. No Gimmicks Needed 1.0
Not every individual who is drawn to combat sports for one reason or another is also a World Wrestling Entertainment weekly viewer who needs to see two fighters “cut promos” on one another. UFC has fully embraced the pro wrestling style of promoting fights, so much so that there are times when a fight has one definitive “heel” character taking on one “babyface.” Boxing has not completely run away from these practices, but the sport’s pay-per-view main event encounters are, more often than not, based on the hype of who among the two competitors will be the better man in the ring. That’s it.
7. No Gimmicks Needed 2.0
Both UFC and boxing federations need to do better to promote current stars and build future talent, but it is the UFC that more often these days puts the sizzle before the steak. Examples? UFC pushed Brock Lesnar to the World Heavyweight Championship well before he deserved that honor. The company has now signed former WWE talent CM Punk even though Punk is not expected to do much minus a couple of fights that UFC hopes will draw attention from wrestling fans. Say whatever you will about the impressive athleticism had by a pro wrestler. None of those guys are making a quick transition into the world of boxing these days.
6. Length of Fights
UFC and boxing matches can all end in a heartbeat via a knockout blow or, in mixed-martial-arts competitions, a quick submission. A non-title, non-main event UFC fight is intended to last no longer than 18 minutes (breaks included) from start to final horn. A boxing match that is even ten rounds in length gives you plenty of time to settle in and examine the different styles of the two fighters. Judging is a problem that needs massive overhauls in both sports, but the ten-points-must system works much better in boxing, because of the amount of rounds in a fight, than it does for UFC.
Even the UFC has been forced to admit that the organization has a serious problem regarding fighters ingesting certain chemicals that are not allowed as per the laws of the fighting game. It was in February 2015 when the company announced a new comprehensive testing program and also harsher penalties for those who choose to break the rules before, leading up to and after fights. That new initiative went public after it was learned that both Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz, who battled against each other earlier this year, had failed drug tests. The worry moving forward is that UFC performers who had been respected by fans and analysts will, under the new system, get popped.
4. Boxing IQ
A UFC fighter has to be thinking ahead to the next move to both set himself up for what could be a match-winning blow or takedown and to also avoid being the victim of those offensive attacks. Boxers, meanwhile, have to be rounds ahead of the action to fully execute fight plans, while at the same time looking for openings while avoiding what could be a knockout punch. This is not to bash the intelligence required to be a champion UFC fighter. It is merely a different mode of thinking in the boxing world, one that requires a fighter to be more measured and more cerebral if he is to be successful.
3. Top Strikers
Unless you grew up involved in amateur wrestling or in a different form of grappling, it is likely that you are drawn to combat sports because you want to watch two top-tier athletes slug it out in the middle of a ring or cage. The best hands in the fighting world right now today are boxers, and it isn’t even close when you compare the two crafts of fighting. Hand speed. Accuracy. Power. While there are some great strikers in the UFC, some of whom have won titles through their punching abilities, none perfect the “sweet science” of hand-striking as do the top boxers on the planet.
2. No “Lay and Pray”
While a boxing match can undeniably have its boring points, there is nothing worse in all of combat sports than the act of “lay and pray,” when one UFC combatant takes his opponent to the ground and then attempts to stall in order to earn a positive decision. Refs are, just as in boxing, supposed to encourage action during a UFC fight, but far too many times fighters are not placed back on their feet as soon as attempts to execute anything of note disappear from the battle. Those running UFC need to do more to punish fighters who go to “lay-and-pray” style during fight.
1. The “Big Fight”
Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao is going to be the pay-per-view view combat sports event of its generation, one that cannot possibly be outdone by anything that the UFC, World Wrestling Entertainment or any other organization could put together. Think of the possible big-time match-ups that the UFC could theoretically create. Jon Jones vs. Cain Velasquez and Ronda Rousey vs. Cris Cyborg, the second likely being more of a fairytale dream than a battle we will actually ever witness inside of the cage, would both be fun to behold, but none would come close to matching the spectacle that would be Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and any potential rematch involving those two.
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