MMA vs. Boxing: Tonight's PPV Grudge Match and the Mainstream Media
"If early mainstream media coverage is an accurate indicator, Mayweather-Marquez will crush UFC 103 tomorrow night in PPV buys. Then again, mainstream media have shown lukewarm interest in UFC despite its constant growth and popularity."
The above comment is taken from the status of New Jersey Star-Ledger Boxing and MMA writer Franklin McNeil's Facebook profile. Yes, we're friends.
While the thought reminds me of why I am a fan of Franklin McNeil in the first place, it also brings up the constant debate between boxing and mixed martial arts and the coverage they receive in the mainstream media.
Settle in, this one is going to take a while.
Both portions of McNeil's status update are true; the Mayweather-Marquez fight has been earning 10-8 rounds against UFC 103 for the entire week, if not longer.
Though the UFC delivered their usual strong Countdown show on Spike, the M&M show has garner 24/7 coverage, both literally and figuratively from ESPN and most other major media outlets.
While the UFC can't get a sniff of main page attention from the web sites of the two sports superpowers, Mayweather versus Marquez is batting leadoff and sixth on ESPN, in addition to holding down the three hole on Sports Illustrated.
Adding up all the attention the sweet science is receiving certainly gives the impression that the championship card of boxing will score an impressive TKO over the UFC tomorrow night.
But is that impression legitimate?
This is where the second part of McNeil's doubly-truthful observation comes into play.
Saying the mainstream media has shown lukewarm interest in the UFC is like saying Angelina Jolie is decent looking; both are gross understatements.
Outside of UFC 100 and Brock Lesnar's post-fight shenanigans, the mainstream media has only shown an interest in MMA when the story is just too huge to ignore.
Affliction's demise got a little bit of ink, while the Fedor Sweepstakes and the Gina Carano-Cris Cyborg fight both scored reasonably well, but other than that, the coverage has been minimal outside of the pages and columns dedicated to the sport.
And let's be honest with each other: We all know why the Gina Carano fight got as much attention as it did...
I just call them like I see them.
Back to the matter at hand, predicting who will come out ahead in the pay-per-view grudge match taking place tonight based on mainstream media attention is drawing conclusions from a compromised collection of data.
Although Mixed Martial Arts is growing at a rapid pace both globally and domestically, many mainstream media outlets refuse to give it the same coverage they offer boxing.
Despite the fact that boxing fans have to wait four to six months for a worthwhile pay-per-view event, in comparison to monthly cards courtesy of the UFC, MMA continues to be treated like the redheaded stepchild of the sports world by the media.
Even though Mayweather has been out of the ring for over two years, the returning former pound-for-pound king is garnering the sport coverage equivalent of being Jon Gosselin, while Rich Franklin and the rest of the UFC 103 fighters can't even make it on TMZ, yet alone Showbiz Tonight or Access Hollywood.
Everyone knows what Mayweather had to eat for dinner last night, while Franklin and company have to hunt down the paparazzi themselves if they want to have their pictures taken.
Drawing realistic conclusions is awfully hard when the information being presented is biased.
Though the mainstream media may be showering the Mayweather-Marquez bout with attention, my guess would be that the roles are reversed when you look at which event bars and other such establishments are choosing to air tomorrow night.
While I can name you several sports bars and watering holes that are showing the UFC within a 100 mile radius of the tiny town I currently call home, I can't tell you one such establishment that will have Mayweather versus Marquez on their marquee tomorrow night.
The same trend holds true for each of the three cities I've settled in over the last two years. In fact, the last big boxing event that I can recall garnering serious pay-per-view attention with the barstool set was the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson tilt and that took place in 2002.
That's not to say that boxing doesn't still have a loyal and dedicated fan base that will open their wallets for championship events, but the truth of the matter is the MMA has replaced boxing as the combat sport of choice for bar owners, as well as the 18-35 demographic.
Keeping that demographic in mind, it's easy to see why the mainstream media is down on MMA and big on boxing; there aren't a whole lot of members of said demographic with any kind of sway in the mainstream media right about now is there?
In their way is "The Old Guard," an assembly of elder statesmen raised on the glory days of boxing, when legends took to the ring on a regular basis and martial arts was reserved for kung-fu films and the occasional class at the YMCA.
Does anyone really expect the same people who routinely cling to archaic ideas about MMA that have been repeatedly refuted to suddenly switch gears and start covering the sport?
The answer is no, and it will remain that way until people who are passionate about the sport are afforded the opportunity to provide it with the coverage it deserves.
While MMA is making small strides, like having two of the three panelists on Friday's episode of Around the Horn pick UFC 103 to come out victorious in this weekend's PPV Grudge Match, winning a small battle on a single segment of Horn is hardly a cause for celebration.
Perhaps the frequent fight schedule will always mean that only the biggest events of the year will receive wall-to-wall coverage a la UFC 100, while the infrequent nature of top tier boxing events makes the massive mainstream attention more understandable.
That being said, trying to determine which of these two pay-per-view programs is going to come out ahead by the amount of coverage afforded to each is about as useful as asking a bunch of Toronto-area residents who will win the Stanley Cup this year.
A majority will say the Maple Leafs, despite having last sipped from Lord Stanley's mug more than 40 years ago.
Just because the mainstream media is backing boxing doesn't mean Mayweather and Marquez are going to come out on top tonight.
It just mean that they, like Toronto Maple Leafs fans, refuse to accept anything different.
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