Although it started out as a gimmick to find the best form of martial arts in the world; MMA has established itself above boxing in popularity in the eyes of many sports fans. The reason is simple: MMA promoters reversed the trail set by boxing. At first, MMA events could only be seen on Pay-Per-View, but as the sport grew in popularity MMA promoters found a way of reaching the masses to cement this popularity. All of a sudden, the ordinary Joe who didn’t have a minimum of $60 per event could watch fights on standard cable TV once a week, making MMA the fastest rising sport in the United States- rivaling PPV sales of both boxing and wrestling.
To understand how boxing has fallen in the eyes of sports fans, one must look at the logic employed by professional boxing. The gist of boxing’s marketing was simple. The more anticipation they could build for a single fight, the more money they could bring in. Boxing fans could look forward to watching their favorite fighter in the ring about three times a year. However, as the purses became larger, professional boxers started limiting themselves to maybe two fights a year with larger paydays. This year, Floyd Mayweather has already earned $34 million for his 12th round defeat of Robert Guerrero in February - $32 million of which was guaranteed money. The other $2 million came from what was considered disappointing PPV sales. The plan worked for a while. I remember gathering at friends’ houses and everybody chipping in to watch a fight, but as the amount of fights began to fade so boxing’s following. The problem – fans had little or nothing to talk about between over-hyped fights that left people disappointed.
MMA, on the other hand, took advantage of boxing’s long periods of inactivity by holding regular events and televising many of its fights on regular cable TV. In 2011, UFC on Fox garnered 8.8 million viewers on a cable network, which allowed MMA to expand its fan base. Yes, some events are still on pay-per-view, but the lower purses meant MMA associations could lower the cost to view the events. The result, the average fan could follow the career of his/her favorite MMA fighter on a regular basis, while boxing fans has to wait a minimum of 6 months to watch their favorite fighter enter the ring.
Whether boxing with its storied tradition goes down for the count remains to be seen, but for right now, MMA definitely has pugilism on the ropes.