Over the last seventeen years or so, the sport of mixed martial arts, mainly under the direction of The Ultimate Fighting Championships. Has seen a massive explosion in its popularity. So people are asking if it’s much younger, why is MMA more popular than boxing?
Well, for one, depending on which sport you follow this can be subjective. As while MMA has seen a massive explosion in popularity. Boxing still holds the biggest pay per view records. But boxing stalled for many years, while MMA continues to grow.
And there can be little doubt that over the past ten to fifteen years. That under the leadership of The Ultimate Fighting Championships. Mixed martial arts has seen huge growth in terms of awareness
Where It All Began
Now while the original home of boxing is that of Great Britain. There can be little doubting the home of MMA is the United States. Boxing in it’s purest form has been around for thousands of years. While gloved boxing only came into existence in the late 1800s.
While many of the individual disciplines within mixed martial arts have been around for centuries. The actual sport of MMA as we know it today only officially started back in 1993. While it’s creators Rorion Gracie and Arthur Davie essentially took the brutal sport of Vale Tudo from Brazil. And tried to repackage and sanitise it for a mainstream audience in the form of the UFC.
So MMA, as we know it now, has only had give or take 27 years to make an impact. And globally we do see how this has now happened with gyms that specifically train in the sport popping up all over the world. And along with that a whole slew of new promotions. Many of which have unfortunately already come and gone, while others still continue on.
Truth be known is that boxing has maintained its position as the number one combat sport in terms of popularity. And as we can see from the graph below. There have been just a few points since 2004 where mixed martial arts was either equal or surpassed boxing in terms of search popularity on the web.
And those dates were June 2008, June and July 2009, and June – July 2010. With MMA only passing boxing in terms of its popularity briefly in August 2009. Before once again falling below never to recover right up until the current date.
MMA vs Boxing Popularity USA
So while the sport of mixed martial arts has no doubt grown. And along with that created some huge stars including Ronda Rousey, Georges St Pierre, Anderson Silva. And of course one of the biggest crossover stars sports has known in Conor McGregor.
Most of these stars outside of Conor McGregor or perhaps Ronda Rousey wouldn’t be known to a non-combat sports fan. As while these athletes may be superstars to fans of the sport. In terms of global awareness to non-MMA fans, is relatively limited.
Boxing vs MMA Popularity Worldwide
And while boxing has lagged from the late 1990s up until recently. It has still managed to hold on to much of its core fanbase. And along the way created some of the biggest names and some of the highest-paid athletes in world sport. Including names like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
On top of that, in recent years boxing has seen a resurgence in popularity amongst fans of both sports. With more fighters willing to consider a cross over fight. And some making it a reality like the massive event that was Mayweather vs McGregor.
And with its many stars including Canelo Alvarez, Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Vasyl Lomachenko, Gennady Golovkin to name a few. Along with lots of other huge names that only hardcore boxing would be aware of. Right now, the future is looking considerably brighter for the sweet science.
And it doesn’t end there as when it comes to the all-important pay per view revenues. Boxing has consistently outshined MMA in almost all departments. But, and there is always a but. The UFC which is the real pillar of the sport is still growing. And all be it slowly, catching up to boxing. With their main star, Conor McGregor’s first career PPV buys all being bigger than that of boxing’s Moneyman Floyd Mayweather’s.
Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor PPV Numbers
|Floyd Mayweather||Conor McGregor|
|Arturo Gatti – 340,000 (PPV Buys)||Chad Mendes – 825,000 (PPV Buys)|
|Zab Judah – 375,000 (PPV Buys)||Jose Aldo – 1,200,000 (PPV Buys)|
|Carlos Boldomir – 325,000 (PPV Buys)||Nate Diaz – 1,600,000 (PPV Buys)|
|Oscar De La Hoya – 2,400,000 (PPV Buys)||Nate Diaz – 1,625,000 (PPV Buys)|
And with a slew of rising talent in the sport on which to build their future. The UFC and the sport of MMA overall, are inching toward its new line up of stars to make their big breakthrough.
Another thing we have to remember is that boxing stars like Tyson Fury. Only really became known worldwide after he dethroned the long-reigning heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. But his subsequent well-documented fight with mental health delayed his inevitable rise to stardom.
Making a resurgence back on to the scene in 2018, before dethroning the WBC champion Deontay Wilder in their second fight during 2020. And heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua was in the same boat. After beating a returning Klitschko to take the world boxing scene by storm in 2017.
And boxing is still paying its stars significantly more than the UFC. With Canelo Alvarez securing an 11 fight, 350 million dollar fight deal with DAZN streaming service as recent as 2018. So a lot has happened since Mayweather and McGregor had their massive crossover fight. And there is no doubt much more to come.
And this really shouldn’t be, but it is, a competition. As both sports are built on ultra competitiveness and aggression. Both camps are always looking for bragging rights and both have had that opportunity at given points along the timeline.
It’s going to be a fascinating few years as new stars rise and old stars fade into the background. We cannot keep holding out for Floyd to decide if he will or won’t step back into the ring. Or whether a certain Mr McGregor will or won’t retire. All good things eventually come to an end.
But for the boxing vs MMA debate, we will have to wait and see how this all plays out in the longer term. Because the sport of mixed martial arts is so new, it’s got tonnes of room to grow. And whether or not it will overtake boxing somewhere down the line, we will just have to wait and see.
Image courtesy of sportskeeda.com