18 Dec 2015
Is MMA catching up with boxing?

Mixed martial arts has been in a constant state of growth since the very first UFC event over 20 years ago. Now, after UFC 194 the sport is in for its greatest surge in popularity since UFC 100 and the days of Brock Lesnar. 

But does this green wave signify a time when MMA catches up with its big brother, boxing?

The gap undoubtedly still exists. But there is one man, with a little help from his female co-star, doing everything within his immense power to close it.

The Lesnar of today does not weigh 265lbs, nor does he look like the product of a biological experiment. 

What Lesnar and Conor McGregor do have in common though, as well as some questionable ink, is an extraordinary athletic talent and a rare ability to make people want to watch them. 

Conor McGregor’s latest one man show, UFC 194, will not break the PPV buy record set by Lesnar at UFC 100 but it is not far away. And all signals indicate that UFC 200, likely to be headlined by the Irishman, in July will set a new record - a record which will eat up even more ground on the slow-moving leader in combat sports. 

The featherweight champion is the ace in the pack for the UFC, the golden ticket which could propel the company to new heights.

After his 13 second victory, the quickest ever UFC title-fight, McGregor will officially be paid more dollars per second than any fighter in company history - toppling the UFC’s poster-girl, Ronda Rousey, to the title. 

As impressive as McGregor’s figures are, they are childlike in comparison to those of boxing’s greatest star: Floyd Mayweather. 

While McGregor is estimated to earn around $8m for his quick work at UFC 194, Mayweather raked in approximately $240m for his 12-rounds versus Manny Pacquiao in May. 

Further evidence shows that this weekend the UFC broke their gate record in Vegas with $10.2m. Comparatively Mayweather/Pacquiao, which also took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, received a staggering gate of $72m. 

These enormously disparate numbers prove how far ahead boxing truly is when it comes to the mass market. 

However, the “fight of the century” was of course an anomaly and will not be replicated for many years to come.

In fact in general terms the UFC can keep up with boxing with regards to PPV - each of Ronda Rousey’s last two headline events have teetered around the one million mark.

These numbers parallel those of last months blockbuster fight between Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto which drew 900k viewers. 

What becomes clear when analysing the numbers is that in terms of widespread appeal boxing is a long way ahead. But when it comes to dedicated fans tuning in on a regular basis MMA matches or even betters boxing. 

At the end of 2015 it is fair to say that MMA is catching up quicker than ever before. And with Conor McGregor leading the UFC in to 2016, a year which will bring UFC 200 and the return of pound for pound king Jon Jones, MMA is sure to break new ground yet again.