Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is the highest paid athlete in the world, participating in a sport that most say is ‘dead.’ On Saturday he defeated Robert Guerrero to move to 44-0 in his career. Contrary to popular belief, the sheer numbers of viewers and dollars associated with Mayweather fights show that he is one of the most important athletes competing in combat sports today. Meanwhile, Dana White has long criticized boxing for it’s tendency to book terrible undercards. He has also criticized the sport for being unable to match up it’s best fighters in superfights.
Ignoring the fact that White has been unable to put together his biggest potential moneymaking superfight (Silva vs. St. Pierre), the fact is that White would love to have an athlete with Mayweather’s drawing power working for Zuffa, LLC. The reason why the UFC has been unable to create a start as transcendent as Mayweather is that they have put so much emphasis on the UFC brand rather than marketing specific fighters that potential stars like Jon Jones. The UFC has assumed, over the past two years, that the UFC brand alone would be enough to sell pay per views. As a result, their average buy rate has dropped since it’s peak in 2010. The UFC is still making plenty of money but they now have to put on more events to make the same amount of money that they did in 2010.
Obviously, Mayweather will always take home a larger cut of profits than any UFC fighter does because he essentially runs his own promotion. He reportedly will take home ninety percent of the profits from Saturday’s event. But even looking at just pay-per-view buys, Mayweather’s fights consistently break one million buys; over his past 9 fights with HBO, he averaged 1.06 million buys per event. Georges St. Pierre, who is arguably the promotion’s and sport’s biggest star, averages about 750,000-800,000 buys per event. In terms of pure numbers, it’s clear that the UFC isn’t that far off, but in terms of influence on popular culture, the UFC is way behind Mayweather. Just look at the stars that show up to Mayweather’s fights: P. Diddy, Lil’ Wayne, 50 Cent, true A-list stars, go to Mayweather’s fights. On the other hand the “celebrity guests” featured on UFC broadcasts are often cringe-worthy. Even Miguel Cotto, an ancillary boxing star, made more in one fight with Mayweather ($8 million) then Jon Jones makes in a year.
Money talks and there is a reason why Mayweather is still more influential the minds of the populous than any of the UFC’s stars. Mayweather is popular because he is dominant and because he is allowed to correctly market himself. The UFC has a star in Jon Jones who can be just as dominant in his sport as Mayweather is in his. However, the UFC pushes the UFC brand instead of marketing fighters. Just look at the booking of UFC 159. They booked their biggest rising star on a card featuring a squash match with a middleweight and a poor undercard. Until the UFC learns that it’s name alone won’t sell pay-per-views and it needs to market it’s own fighters, it will never be able to develop a transcendent star as influential as Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
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