The world of combat sports was hit by a cyclone of praise and criticism from fans and pundits alike when Floyd Mayweather agreed to meet UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor in a 12-round boxing match. The fight, dubbed “The Biggest Fight in Combat Sports History” did indeed make sporting history. Variety reported that the Mayweather-McGregor fight produced 4.6 million pay-per-view buys making it the second biggest pay-per-view of all time. Also, from ticket sales to international distribution, the total global revenue for the event exceeded $600 million, which also qualifies it as the biggest single-day sporting event in history.
In light of the revenue and global awareness, many speculate that this won’t be the last time a match of this magnitude will take place. UFC President Dana White recently told the press that he was in “serious talks” with Mayweather to bring his talents over to the Octagon. However it appears he spoke too soon as Mayweather quickly dismissed this assertion: “I never said I was gonna fight in the UFC. I didn’t say that. I said if I wanted to and what I could. Could and would do is different things. I’m not gonna do it, though.”
While the Mayweather-McGregor match has truly changed the nature of combat sports, it doesn’t mean to say that they are the only fighters who explored switching sports in the fight game. In 2008, three-weight class champion James Toney took on three-time UFC Heavyweight and two-time Light Heavyweight champion Randy Couture inside a mixed martial arts battle. The result: a little over three minutes into the first round, Toney was submitted by Couture via an arm-triangle choke. Inversely, some of the UFC’s bests are also considering the crossover. Just before the Mayweather-McGregor match, former UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva and former boxing world champion Roy Jones Jr. also expressed that they want to see who is the better fighter in a boxing bout.
The Mayweather-McGregor match show how there is still a global interest in both sports. Both boxing and MMA are streets ahead of other combat sports in terms of viewership figures and merchandise. One reason for this success is how both sports have taken advantage of the gaming industry to increase their fan base. At the moment, UFC is the top combat sport videogame through the recently released EA Sports UFC 2. The game has received acclaim from fans and gamers alike for its realistic fighting. Boxing, conversely, has slowed down in the videogame industry with the final Fight Night being released in 2011. Instead the sport has a strong presence in the mobile gaming industry. Real Boxing is a free to play game that has both a Manny Pacquiao and Rocky spinoff. Boxing has also expanded to online mobile friendly gaming. Slots game Fistcuffs on Slingo is a nostalgic look at the history of boxing before money took over the sport. The reach of both sports into the gaming industry, alongside the Mayweather-McGregor fight, demonstrates how widely popular they remain on a global stage.
Yet, with Mayweather hanging his gloves up for the final time and currently showing no interest in stepping into the Octagon, both sports could be in need of an injection of publicity in the near future. Boxing will be hoping that the rivalry between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin will generate interest in the sport. Despite the high profile match, and a likely upcoming rematch according to Boxing Insider, neither fighters are at the level of Mayweather or McGregor as global figures. With both boxing and MMA continuing to look for big PPVs both Mayweather and McGregor could be called on to help their respective sports stay in the public conscious.