I’m going to save you the suspense, folks, and cut right to the chase: There’s no such thing as the "Boxing vs. MMA" debate.
Seriously. It’s all a big lie. Something MMA bloggers invented it in order to draw more hits. The whole rivalry is the Keizer Soze of MMA news narratives—only unlike Keizer, the greatest trick it ever pulled was convincing the world that it DID exist.
Sitting at home on a Saturday night with beer and remote in hand, we knew you didn’t care about which sport draws better numbers and is more "legitimate," or which one is "the fastest-growing sport" in the world and which is "dead." Every statistic available to us shows both sports are capable of drawing just fine, despite the presence of the other. We know it’s not a zero-sum game between the two.
Sure, you may have been ordering UFC a lot more than boxing in recent years, but that's because boxing has its own problems. When they get their act together and put on fights you care about, you tune in. There’s nothing to suggest the sport has lost any of its appeal or drawing power due to MMA’s mainstream arrival. There’s nothing to suggest the two sports can’t both be successful providing they can both continue to put on compelling fights.
We needed a story with a little more pizazz. Fight fans want action, damn it! MMA vs. Boxing! The battle of the century! A fight to the death between the old lion of combat sports and its younger, flashier usurper. And like the immortals in "Highlander," THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!
This past weekend, the UFC and boxing went head-to-head with competing events. As it turns out, Nate Marquardt vs. Yushin Okami was kinda boring, while Manny Pacquiao vs. Antonio Margarito was awesome. So that probably means boxing kicked MMA’s ass this weekend, am I right?
We know the playing field wasn’t exactly even—one was a hyped-to-the-gills PPV event and one was a C-list "Fight Night" card masquerading as a B-list "Foreign Numbered UFC" event to make German fans feel better.
But who cares, right? You probably did what everybody else did—you TiVo’d the UFC and then caught the Pac Man fight live that night. Everybody wins. No "sport vs. sport" rivalry to see here, folks.
And sure, the UFC wasn’t all that great. But since you got it for free, you can at least say that you got your money’s worth. Besides, it’s always nice to see a kneebar in modern MMA. And that Karlos Vemola guy looks like an insane asylum inmate who’s spent the day lifting weights and doing crystal meth—and fights that way, too.
But Marquardt vs. Okami was kind of a slow fight. The American guy you might have known lost to the Japanese guy you probably didn’t know. Bummer. And since that’s the image you went home with, it was easy enough to convince you that UFC 122 was a flop.
Boxing, meanwhile, is probably still smoking its post-Pacquiao fight cigarette from Saturday night.
No doubt about it—Pac Man is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. Watching him clown the much bigger Margarito for 12 rounds was an absolute treat for all the fans who tuned in to see the hated cheater get his comeuppance.
And there must have been a lot of you, because the PPV numbers for this fight are trending pretty darn high. With those kinds of numbers, and the endlessly satisfying experience of another Pacquiao bulldozing, it’s pretty clear boxing walked all over MMA Saturday night.
OK, so it’s not that clear, but remember, we’re trying to get hits to our blogs here. We don’t need things like "facts" getting in the way of a good story. Besides, we fighting elite usually show our undying support by ripping illegal PPV streams, so as far as I see it, we have the right to bitch about both cards equally.
Let’s be real here: Most MMA fans probably only read about the Pac vs. Margarito results online, so it was easy for us to sell “boxing” as the night's big winner. Those fans who watched both events ended the night with the image of Pacquiao’s David smashing Margarito’s Goliath. Talk about a crowd-pleaser. It was such a fun fight, in fact, that it got everyone to forget that the rest of the night was a total flop.
"Boxing" didn’t win on Saturday night. Manny Pacquiao—the fighter, the personality, the brand—did.
"Boxing" put on a PPV card with one exciting fight and a whole undercard of mostly unknowns fighting in dreadfully boring fights. I watched both events that day with a group, and the UFC telecast as a whole drew far better reactions from the people I saw it with than any point in the boxing card, save for the main event.
Alas, that’s boxing for you. Twelve rounds of Filipino domination later, and everyone is singing Manny’s praises and toasting the everlasting dominance of boxing while forgetting the matchmaking abortion that went into making that fight in the first place.
If this fight had been booked in MMA, fans would riot in the streets and hang Dana White and Joe Silva in the town square. Imagine if Chael Sonnen came off his yearlong steroids suspension and was given a PPV headlining fight against Frankie Edgar. Same situation here.
Pacquiao should be fighting Floyd Mayweather. And Margarito should be in prison. Anything else is a disappointment, a stopgap measure at best, and hardly indicative of a promising future for the sweet science. If Mayweather gets held up by the IRS indefinitely and Pacquiao disappears into Filipino politics, where does that leave the sport, exactly?
But as I said, that story doesn’t read as well. MMA fans, for being fans of something as hardcore as cage fighting, are actually quite sensitive. They react to the slightest perceived knock against their sport with remarkable enthusiasm. We tell you, “Boxing kicked MMA’s ass!” and you run around like Chicken Little, post-acorn.
And thank God, because otherwise we’d have to fill our blogs with boring stories about how Okami is finally getting his title shot after four-plus years in the top 10 rankings, or Andre Winner as yet another U.K prospect gone bust or how a name spelt "Osipczack" is somehow pronounced "Oh-ship-shack."
Next, I’ll spill the beans on some more of our biggest secrets, like oversaturation. Oversaturation? Only an ornery blogger could complain about TOO MANY fights on TV. I still can’t believe you guys bought that whopper.