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MMA vs. Boxing: Which Sport Will Be The People’s Champ This Weekend?

(Dang, Nate, tell us how you really feel.)

By Oliver Chan

On Saturday night, the sport of boxing goes head-to-head with MMA. No, I’m not talking about another freak-show like when the horribly overpaid James Toney fought the latest guy to be called out by Steven Seagal. (“Anybody seen Randyyyyy? Ah?”) I’m talking Pacquiao/Marquez IV vs. Diaz/Henderson. While the events aren’t really going head-to-head, per se — UFC on Fox starts at 8 p.m. ET, and should be finished by the time Manny and Marquez step into the ring on the HBO pay-per-view broadcast — how viewers tune in this Saturday will speak volumes of the current state of both sports.

In one corner, you have the UFC with a stacked card, but still struggling to live up to the hype as far as ratings go. In the other corner, you have boxing, the aging champ of combat sports. While struggling to stay relevant, it is still a dominant force with two bankable stars who won’t fight each other.

It is no mistake that the UFC has put together a PPV-worthy card to be aired free to the masses. You’ve got a title fight in what is arguably the most competitive weight class in the sport. You also have two legends of MMA taking on two young up-and-comers taking on the sport by storm. Come to think of it, the Penn vs. McDonald and Rua vs. Gustafsson fights are perfect analogies of what MMA is to boxing right now.

UFC on Fox will have a head start on the Saturday prime-time schedule, but Pacquiao vs. Marquez has the advantage of being “appointment viewing.” In other words, fight fans already planning on ordering the PPV bout are more likely to start switching over from the UFC on Fox regardless of whether or not the UFC lightweight championship has been determined. On the flip side, the UFC card has something that Pacquiao/Marquez does not: drama.

Studies show that fight fans, specifically MMA fans, are drawn to the drama aspect over the violence aspect of the sport. Does the UFC on Fox card have drama? You bet your ass it does. You have one title fight in what is arguably the most competitive weight division in MMA and two bouts featuring legends of the sport taking on the rapidly rising young-blood of MMA.

Meanwhile, boxing has scrapped together a meaningless fourth match-up between Marquez and Pacquiao. The fight doesn’t even have any title implications on the line.  This fight is coming off of the huge black-eye (pun intended) on the sport of boxing in the form of the controversial Bradley/Pacquiao decision in June. Why Pacquiao’s next fight wasn’t an immediate rematch for the WBO Welterweight Title still escapes me. If it was, Pacquiao/Bradley II would have been a much better draw and stand a much better advantage over the UFC on Fox this Saturday. But alas, the gods of common sense will dictate otherwise.

Nate Diaz and Benson Henderson need to put on a great performance this Saturday.  They need to keep viewers engaged and forget about switching over to the PPV event that will overlap the UFC event, when the Pacquiao vs. Marquez supporting card begins at 9 p.m. ET.

Come Monday, it will be interesting to see how the numbers play out. Will the UFC poach some of boxing’s PPV orders? Or will we see a steep decline in TV ratings during the main-event as viewers switch over to see Pacquiao vs. Marquez IV? Will we see a changing of the guard, or will it be business as usual? To me, the biggest story on Saturday does not involve anyone fighting, but which sport will be victorious with TV viewers — the aging legend, boxing, or the rising star of combat sports, MMA?

Cagepotato Comments

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O Chan- December 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm
Well, I guess I was wrong about the "drama-aspect"...
ctsend- December 8, 2012 at 9:28 am
MMA should do better numbers since it's on broadcast television. Trying to compare MMA and boxing is like trying to compare football and soccer. MMA and football are based on strength and athleticism, boxing and soccer are guys dancing and running around for an hour with no real winner. Like football, MMA will eventually be a ratings giant.
KarmaAteMyCat- December 7, 2012 at 1:40 am
No heavyweight in our generation is going to touch the fucking Klitschko brothers. Not in your wettest of dreams is that going to happen. HA!
cman- December 6, 2012 at 9:32 pm
Boxing pulls better primarily from Hispanics and elder crowds who remain AVID boxing fans. That's fine but as Hispanics are discovering MMA more and more and old people, well die, those numbers will drop unless a solid HW with broad appeal emerges. As is only PAC and mayweather do numbers and HBO fight nights are fading fast.
deada- December 6, 2012 at 9:22 pm
Mr_Misanthropy- December 6, 2012 at 4:45 pm
Fuck you PacMan- this ain't yo block! You was born down the street, mufucka!
El Guapo- December 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm
(banging head on desk, co-workers looking at me like WTF)The fact that they aren't rematching despite Bradley having "won" the belt makes it clear as day that nobody wants to see that fight, period. Cyborg in lingerie has more sex appeal. Lisa Lampanelli naked has more sex appeal. This fat lady with legs that look like giant croissants in the link above has more sex appeal.
Look, I'm a firm believer that everybody's entitled to their respective opinion no matter how Xeno'd they are. Shit, I read CP on the daily. But let's let the facts speak for themselves, shall we? If Pacquiao-Marquez sells more PPV's than Bones-Evans(third highest UFC PPV of 2012)while going head to head with a free Diaz-Bendo... (Soup nazi voice)"No more boxing commentary for you!"
Alan K- December 6, 2012 at 2:56 pm
No contest. UFC will pull in better numbers because it'll be on free TV.
O Chan- December 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm
El Guapo - I agree that Bradley/Manny was a joke of a fight, however, at the end of the day, Bradley left with the belt. From a pure marketing standpoint, Bradley/Manny 2 has a little more sex-appeal than a fourth match between Manny/Marquez. Had the judge scored the first Manny/Bradley fight to Manny, there will be no re-match discussion period.
El Guapo- December 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm
(sigh)Okaaaay. What I meant was, Bradley doesn't deserve a rematch. By far the biggest fight of his life and he put on a backpedaling exhibition that would make the Carlos Condit that fought Diaz look like Stephan Bonnar vs Forrest Griffin. To say a Bradley-Pac rematch would be a better draw than Marquez-Pac is borderline retarded*. Which, again, is why I figured the author of this piece didn't see the fight.
As it is, this "meaningless", "aging legend", non-title boxing PPV is still going to draw more buys than all but TWO of the UFC's top PPV events of this year(Silva-Sonnen, GSP-Condit). And even then I wouldn't be suprised if it surpasses the 1 mill PPV mark. All while the UFC is showing a stacked, title at stake, badass mothertruckin show... FOR FREE!
I'll be watching both, as I love me some good fights, but please CP(purdy-purdy please)... pleeeease... ixnay on the boxing related articles nay unless dude knows what the fuck he's talking about.
El Guapo- December 6, 2012 at 2:18 pm
*Pains me to have to actually explain this BUT... Juan Manuel "Dynamita" Marquez is one of the best lightweights/junior lightweights of all time.
Fun fact: His career began before the first UFC even took place
No-Mojo- December 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm
Bradley v. Pacquiao proved that boxing titles have no drama in them left. If a fight is that boring--nobody wants to see the wrong righted. Even if the wrong man is holding the title.
Fried Taco- December 6, 2012 at 11:44 am
Yes, we like the drama. That's why I watch The Real Housewives of Boxing.
cman- December 6, 2012 at 11:21 am
I run 3 sports bars, and to date we have not had a single call on the PAC fight. Literally, not a one. I had 72 for the MLS final at my slow location last week by Thursday.
I'm going on Guapos limb and saying at least here, no one cares about boxing.
El Guapo- December 6, 2012 at 11:04 am
I'm gonna go out on a very short limb here and say O Chan didn't watch the Bradley-Pacquiao fight.