UFC (smartly) backs down from a showdown with Pacquiao
Looks like the UFC’s debut event with new broadcast partner Fox Sports is no longer going head-to-head- with the Nov. 12 superfight between Manny Pacquiao and the last fighter to come close to defeating him, Juan Manuel Marquez.
Instead of lasting deep into the evening, UFC’s live event on Fox will span just one hour, leaving fans time to purchase (or find a pirated internet stream of) the Pacquiao-Marquez showdown.
That’s good news for the UFC, which probably would have taken the loss in this scheduling conflict.
And these conflicts are inevitable.
There are only 52 Saturdays on the calendar, and as the UFC expands and boxing promoters hustle to keep the sweet science in the spotlight pay per view dates dwindle quickly, forcing promoters into tense staredowns and consumers into tough choices.
Ironically, the majority hardcore fight fans are immune to those dilemmas.
The boxing fans I know look at MMA and wonder when people decided clinches were entertaining. November 12 they were always going to watch Pacquiao-Marquez, period.
And MMA fans look at Pacquiao and think, “Nice striking, but how is his ground game?” Tough to lure them away from a free UFC bout with a boxing match, especially one that costs money.
So in theory Top Rank and the UFC could host competing events on the same Saturday, and each promoter could still do big numbers with its core constituency.
But in reality the UFC and the patchwork quilt of promoters and broadcasters who make up the boxing industry are at war over the fans in the middle, the guys who love sports and can get into fighting but who aren’t going to pay for it more than a few times a year.
Those are the fans who have been flocking to the UFC since the first season of The Ultimate Fighter aired in 2005, propelling both the organization and the sport of mixed martial arts from the fringe to the mainstream, and generating tons of cash.
This Forbes magazine article from 2008 estimates the UFC was then worth $1 billion.
And they’re the same fans who have been jostling for spots on Pacquiao’s bandwagon since his December 2008 TKO win over Oscar De la Hoya, transforming Pac Man from a star to a superstar to an international icon.
Can you name another boxer who’s also both a congressman and a pitchman for HP?
No offense to Dustin Poirier, who is scheduled to face Pablo Garza in the Fox main event, but he’s about as likely to siphon viewers from Pacquiao as Shane Mosely is to headline a future pay-per-view.
Which is to say he’s not.
Especially not in November, when (what promoters hope will be) a Floyd Mayweather win over Victor Ortiz will leave the sports world eager to see how Pacquiao responds, and when a decisive win by Pacquiao could set off a fresh round of superfight speculation.
Against that backdrop Pacquiao’s fight will generate even more than the normal amount of attention.
Top Rank and HBO know it, which is why they probably didn’t sweat the prospect of a head-to-head with the UFC in November.
The UFC realizes it too. And while I can’t confirm that they shortened their even to an hour to avoid a showdown with Pacquiao they were destined to lose, they must have considered the possibility of millions of fans tuning midway through their event so they could watch Pacquiao and Marquez throw down.
Either way, UFC and Fox decided to keep their even short, which might make them look like they’re backing down from a fight but guarantees that all their viewers stick around for the main event.
Which is smart.
** Footnoote: Poirer is featured in a documentary called Fightville, which you should check out if you have the chance. My review is right here. Trailer is below**