Why Mixed Martial Arts has superseded boxing in Australia

Sam Cupitt Roar Rookie

By Sam Cupitt, Sam Cupitt is a Roar Rookie

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    At the post-fight press conference for UFC 127 on Sunday afternoon, UFC Marketing Director of International Development, Marshall Zelaznik announced the event’s attendance as 18,186 fans for a 3.5 million dollar gate.

    The event – held at Sydney’s Acer Arena – sold out in just half an hour while last year’s UFC 110 sold out in two hours for an attendance of 17,831 and a gate of 2.5 million dollars.

    At the pre-fight press conference last Wednesday at the Star City Casino, Zelaznik spoke about the developments he has noticed between this year and last year.

    “I think the difference between this year and last year is we are seeing much more media uptake and that is very important for us because that changes everyone’s opinions when the proper media starts to cover the sport, so we love that.

    “Obviously we sold out very quickly with the first event but this event sold out even quicker. You get the sense that there is almost an insatiable appetite with our fan base here and the prospect of us doing more than one event here a year is very real.”

    This “insatiable appetite” of Australia’s Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fans coupled with the farcical nature of Australian boxing has led to what I perceive as not so much a changing of the guard in terms of what is Australia’s premiere combat sport but rather a coup.

    Apart from the Danny Green and Roy Jones Jr. bout in late 2009, which also filled out the Acer Arena, and was a great success for Green, there has been nothing in terms of interesting bouts for years in Australian boxing.

    The Australian media and public primarily focus on Anthony Mundine when it comes to boxing, who repays the notoriety by headlining shoddy cards against no-hopers.

    Fans are expected to pay fifty plus dollars to watch Mundine keep his name alive by squeaking past fighters far inferior to him. This would be okay if the undercards of these events were used to showcase Australia’s up and coming boxing talent but those positions are instead given to ex-Rugby League players who look to trade sloppy punches with random Polynesian taxi drivers.

    Australia’s premiere boxing talents, such as Vic Darchinyan and Michael Katsidis earn their living overseas and have little to no name recognition back home due to the media’s obsession with Anthony Mundine and Danny Green.

    Australian boxing finally jumped the shark in December of last year when one of Mundine’s handpicked opponents, ex-Rugby League player and the winner of Australia’s Contender series, Garth Wood knocked Mundine out in an ugly bout.

    While it’s pointless to compare the skill sets between boxing and MMA as they are two entirely different sports, you can definitely compare their approaches to promotion and production.

    Mixed Martial Arts or more specifically the UFC are much more fan-friendly when it comes to putting together events. Instead of the one marquee bout and series of record padding undercard bouts that are traditional on boxing cards, the UFC provides highly competitive and relevant match-ups the whole way down the card.

    The fact that the match-ups in the UFC are decided solely by the UFC management and not by individual promoters, like in boxing, means that the fights that the fans want to see are made. You just have to look at the song and dance routine that went into trying to get the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao made in boxing as proof of the merits of the UFC system.

    This UFC model has led to the company superseding boxing as the pay-per-view king in the United States.

    It’s true that fights featuring Pacquiao and Mayweather garner more attention and pay-per-view buys than the biggest UFC events but there are no more than, at best, 3-4 of those a year while the UFC provides a consistently great product which garners a consistently high level of pay-per-view buys that far excel boxing’s yearly return.

    The overwhelming and growing response by fight fans to the UFC’s first two trips down under shows that the appetite for the sport down here is, as Zelaznik puts it, “insatiable”, while the most Australian boxing has to offer for early 2011 is a Mundine/Wood rematch.

    It may not be the most popular opinion in Australia right now, but years of mistreating Australian fight fans with weak match-ups and weaker fight cards has left Australian boxing weak and on its last legs.

    Mixed Martial Arts is new, ambitious and fan-friendly and has arrived down under to deliver the final blow.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • Roar Guru

      March 2nd 2011 @ 9:17am
      peeeko said | March 2nd 2011 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      how are the competitors in a bout decided in UFC? are they by the organisation or by the competitors choosing who they wish to fight like boxing? is there only one UFC organisation ? as i think boxing suffers from having the IBF,WBA,WBC etc all claiming to have world champion belts. i think at the moment there are over 50 different world champs in boxing which is a joke

      • March 2nd 2011 @ 11:04am
        Jerry said | March 2nd 2011 @ 11:04am | ! Report

        The UFC sets up the fights and the fighters only have a limited say in who they fight (though this varies depending on how established they are). But other than fighters from the same camp refusing to fight each other, you don’t get fighters dodging other fighters on anything close to the scale of boxing.

      • Roar Pro

        March 2nd 2011 @ 1:46pm
        Sam Cupitt said | March 2nd 2011 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

        The fighters are allowed to voice their opinions and if they create enough hype towards an opponents that there is overwhelming fan interest for the fight, the bout is usually made. The UFC isn’t the only organisation but they are the premiere organisation. There isn’t really a close second, which means the UFC has 90-95% of the top fighters. That wasn’t always the case but it will be now for a very, very long time most likely.

    • March 2nd 2011 @ 11:42am
      Pete said | March 2nd 2011 @ 11:42am | ! Report

      There is only one UFC. The sport is not called UFC it is MMA. UFC is the organisation, the company, that sets the fights and retains the records and organises the venues and the marketing, liaises with the sanctioning bodies etc.

      There are other “UFCs” in the sense that there are other MMA promotions yes. These include CFC and M1, Dream (if thats still around). The main competitor used to be PRIDE, which was Japanese based.

      The competitors are decided by the UFC match maker, who’s name I have totally forgotten, but fighters have to adhere to all the same rules in terms of drug testing etc, so that contracts cannot become a bloody joke like we see in boxing with the best example being the recent pacquiao mayweather debacle.

      • March 2nd 2011 @ 11:52am
        Jerry said | March 2nd 2011 @ 11:52am | ! Report

        Joe Silva is the UFC matchmaker, though Dana White would have a substantial input.

    • March 2nd 2011 @ 6:19pm
      boxingfan said | March 2nd 2011 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

      For starters i am sick of hearing this ufc vs boxing thing..they are 2 different sports with different rules,SKILLS,i can watch both so im not hating on ufc but really its like comparing afl to nrl in australia….my mate said the other day oh i think roy jones jr would beat any ufc guy…and i said to him yeah and a sumo wrestler might beat mike tyson who knows who cares its again two different sports…

      • March 2nd 2011 @ 6:59pm
        damos_x said | March 2nd 2011 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

        I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure that point was actually brought up in the article, it might pay to read the whole thing before going off half-cocked, just putting it out there.
        The point was that in the common ground the sports do share, the promotions & which fights actually occur, that the UFC & cage-fighting /MMA in general seems to have found the magic formula as opposed to boxing which seems ruled by how much money or who a certain fighter will beat in order to protect their record.

        • Roar Pro

          March 2nd 2011 @ 11:54pm
          Sam Cupitt said | March 2nd 2011 @ 11:54pm | ! Report

          Thank you.

        • March 3rd 2011 @ 2:53pm
          MarkR said | March 3rd 2011 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

          Damos – At the moment the UFC is controlled by a business model where the fighters are contracted to UFC. So it’s as if the top boxers in the world were contracted to only one of the WBC, IBF, WBA, etc. This means at this point in time they can put on the best shows. If enough of the top fighters go to a manager basis then it could easily go the way of boxing.

          From a fans perspective the current format is the best, but I’d question if the fighters making the most of their limited time as competitors. This is a sport where the losers tend to take serious damage which means a lot of fighters will only have a few years before they have to retire. Didn’t Tito leave for Pride because he wasn’t getting much of the massive PPV revenue ?

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