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?

So those are the fans that seemed to have the toughest choice on November 12, though the more you consider the decision the easier it seems.

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**

FIGHTVILLE from Pepper and Bones on Vimeo.

6 Responses to “UFC (smartly) backs down from a showdown with Pacquiao”
  1. Question Mark says:

    I’m not a big boxing guy, but am I correct in thinking that of all boxers right now, only Pacquiao and Mayweather are really big draws on PPV? The UFC has shown that they can draw a consistent 200-300K PPV buys even with a lower-tier, injury-plagued card, which beats any boxing event that doesn’t feature Floyd or Manny. I’d say in general, it’s the UFC that has the upper hand in the scheduling game.

    (Of course, I’m biased since I live in the very pro-UFC area of southern Ontario, so maybe I’m just perceiving that boxing is weaker than it actually is.)

  2. For sure. The UFC is a super high profile organization, while boxing as two super high profile stars, and that’s a very important distinction. And there have already been several saturdays with UFC and boxing events planned and nobody adjusted their schedule and consumers were forced to choose…. although PVRs make these “choices” much easier. BUT the UFC was no more eager to go up against the biggest star in boxing than Golden Boy would but to pit, say, a Bernard Hopkins PPV against an Anderson Silva title defens…

  3. J.M.Marquez came close to beating Pacquiao? I don’t care what anyone says especially Pacman fans I had DINAMITA beating Pacquiao in both wars despite the knockdowns that Marquez suffered in both fights. It’s a shame a real shame that Pacquiao has purposely waited so many years to finally agree to a 3rd war against Marquez. I truly believe the reason for this simply because Pacquiao is worried of getting stopped against Marquez. Pacquiao wanted Marquez to wear out his body throughout the 3 years so that he can now feel more comfortable stepping into the ring against DINAMITA one more time.

    BTW I am one of those boxing friends of yours who HATE to see two fighters clinch it’s digusting! I grew up watching boxing and will continue to follow boxing simply because I enjoy watching boxers trade punches, stand toe to toe go mano a mano fight like real men are suppose to!

    One last thing boxing ain’t just got Floyd & Pacquiao boxing also has MARAVILLA, Hopkins, DINAMITA and young hungry exciting prospects like Wilfredo Vazquez Jr whom are going to continue to keep boxing alive 😉

    Who does the UFC got GSP & Silva two cautious fighters?

    • IVAN! You’re right…. Boxing has a lot of bright young stars but is still trying to figure out how to sell them. The UFC has mastered selling a product that isn’t always exciting. I can’t remember the last time GSP ever brought a crowd to its feet, but he keeps winning and the UFC knows how to market him, so everybody wins.

  4. Morgan as much as I hate to admit it UFC sure knows how to promote their sport.

    I still can’t figure out why boxing doesn’t do the same thing it’s so simple!

    I always thought when Tyson was fighting in his prime why didn’t someone try to do more by trying to sell Tyson toys, shoes, shorts, joggers, shirts, sweaters you name it I sure would have bought it all.

    The same way boxing has market Pacquiao they should do with other boxing greats. Pacquiao ain’t the only star boxing has yet that’s probably why Manny fans tend to think boxing is all about Pacman. No disrespect to Pacquiao who is an average boxer not great like Floyd Mayweather though. Even Hopkins has accomplish a lot more in the sport than Pacquiao 😉

    What a shame real shame I tell you. I won’t mention names but I’m sure you know who I’m referring to when I say there are some selfish, greedy people in boxing!

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  1. […] it seems UFC/Fox shortened their event – column from the Toronto Star’s Morgan Campbell here This entry was posted in UFC and tagged Boxing, UFC. Bookmark the permalink. ← […]

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