Ali vs. Frazier, Leonard vs. Haggler, Tyson vs. Holyfield—these are some of the most iconic fights that boxing fans can easily pull from their memory. Nowadays, though, you would be hard-pressed to find a boxing match that fight fans can really get excited about.
Outside of a fight involving Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao (preferably they should be fighting each other), the sport of boxing is on its last legs when it comes to its standing as the dominant combat sport in the United States.
Over the past five years mixed martial arts has exploded in popularity due to the following advantages which it currently has over boxing:
- Bouts are fought at a faster pace
- Wider methods of achieving victory—i.e., knockout, submission, decision
- Shorter fight length
Most importantly beyond the items listed above, one of the most important factors regarding the success of MMA is that it is fan-centered and web-focused.
Simply put, boxing is a sport for middle-aged to elderly men who have worked the same job most of their lives, marry only once and either don't like Facebook or cannot understand it. In MMA you have a sport dedicated to the exuberance of youth. The sport is all about instantaneous reaction and an allegiance to the fringe.
The sport of mixed martial arts also has something which boxing severely lacks: structure.
Can you name the true heavyweight champion in boxing? Why won't "Pac-Man" and "Money Mayweather" just come to an understanding and sign that deal to fight each other? Within MMA you have one major promotion which sets the trend for the sport—the UFC.
Within the UFC, you have a president in Dana White who has been a fan of boxing for a long time and has managed to capitalize on its failures to evolve. He is fan-oriented, and the fans love him for it. Couple that with the mastermind matchmaking of Joe Silva, and fans generally always get a matchup that they can be excited for.
In the digital age, MMA is the combat sport of the future. From streaming fights on Facebook to offering bonuses to fighters with the most Twitter followers, the UFC has paved the way for other competing promotions to follow.
As much as boxing promoters like Bob Arum would like to lament over the dominance that MMA—particularly the UFC—has, they need to accept that in our sensationalistic and ADD-afflicted society, MMA serves the needs of today's combat consumer.