With the announcement that UFC megastar Conor McGregor has agreed to terms to take on Floyd Mayweather, we are one step closer to seeing one of the most intriguing fights ever.
The combat-sport world is now holding its breath for Mayweather’s team to look over the contract, knowing this fight could benefit for both UFC and boxing.
Purists may argue that McGregor stands no chance, and his relatively amateur boxing background will be dismantled by the undefeated Mayweather, but they need to understand that this fight will be the biggest draw for boxing since Mayweather’s match-up with Manny Pacquiao.
McGregor, along with Ronda Rousey, has set the MMA world alight, and given mainstream media attention to the UFC as a whole. The current UFC lightweight champion is one of the most charismatic men we have seen grace the octagon, and probably the biggest draw in the promotion’s history.
His dazzling suits, extravagant lifestyle and brazen trash-talk has led to a huge following, and helped establish the UFC as the top fighting promotion in the world.
So imagine what this fight, against one of the greatest boxers in history, could do for both sports – and the amount of fans it will attract.
UFC pay per views regularly hit the one million buy rate, and while those numbers have dropped recently, they still are strong with mainstream draws.
Boxing is not as fortunate, but the recent fight between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko drew in over a million. The only concern on boxing’s behalf is that they haven’t had a huge PPV buy rate since the aforementioned Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, which had a huge 4.6 million.
A criticism of boxing is that they have struggled to establish big box-office draws outside of Pacquiao and Mayweather.
The UFC have done better in this regard, as while McGregor and Rousey have dominated the social media landscape, the promotion also had Tyrone Woodley, Jon Jones and Holly Holm as mainstream draws.
Joshua’s massive win over Klitschko has helped boxing step up, but boxers being put on the same card as McGregor-Mayweather could create new stars and put boxing squarely back in contention with the UFC.
The biggest thing that a Mayweather-McGregor fight would do is introduce fans to other boxers and fighters competing on the card.
People with even the slightest inclination towards fighting are almost certain to tune in to this mega-fight, and therefore be introduced to the opposite sport and its talents.
Up-and-coming boxers such as Joshua, Felix Verdajo and Julian Williams are promising talents that can be introduced to the wider fighting landscape. The same could be said for the UFC, which would heavily benefit from their top name being introduced to a sea of boxing loyalists.
While the UFC’s fan-base has soared, every fighting promotion – from boxing to WWE to UFC – cares about the casual fan most.
Purists and loyal fans will be there, night in and night out, whether they like the current product or not, because they love the sport. Casual fans are the target audience, because you can draw them in, and help them fall in love with the sport. You can create fans out of them.
All sports follow this logic, which is why in Australia we see such an emphasis on cricket’s BBL and even AFLW – they are designed to get more people – and therefore more money – involved in the sport.
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And the logic works.
I knew little about UFC and the world of mixed martial arts until UFC 194. And guess who drew me in to the sport? Conor McGregor, when he knocked Jose Aldo out cold inside 13 seconds.
The Irishman’s rivalry with Nate Diaz sold me, and after his win at UFC 202, I became a dedicated UFC fan. Through that, I gained an interest in guys like Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, Daniel Cormier and Amanda Nunes – fighters who I knew little about. But I watched them when they were on the same card as McGregor, and I became fans of theirs as well.
That’s the draw power of someone like McGregor. Give him Mayweather as a dancing partner and you’re going to make a hell of a lot of money, and gain a legion of new fans.
Fighting sports must answer three crucial questions when they make fights:
1. Who are these two?
2. Why are they fighting?
3. Why should I care?
If you answer those questions, you have a show, and you have fans who become genuinely intrigued in the product.
Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather answer every single one of those questions.
Both the UFC and boxing have a lot to gain from this match-up. Casual fans are one of the most important staples in any sport, and through a Mayweather-McGregor super-fight, both the UFC and boxing stand to gain more than just a hefty, one-off payday.