The sport of boxing and the sport of mixed martial arts have a large overlap in their fan bases. They’re competing for the attention of millions of people, and both favor Saturday evening fight cards. Floyd Mayweather is the biggest name in boxing, and Conor McGregor is the biggest name in mixed martial arts.
Boxing is a much older, much more established sport, but it’s one that has been in a perceived slump for the last several years. The greatest epics in combat sports history have all involved larger-than-life characters from the sport of boxing. To this day, the biggest names can command hundreds of millions of dollars and viewers.
But mixed martial arts is getting closer and closer to completely overshadowing boxing. While the top two or three boxers in the world might be common knowledge among casual fans, UFC cards are constantly drawing headlines and new viewers. The sport is growing and is showing no signs of slowing down.
When McGregor and Mayweather compete in a boxing match on Aug. 26, there should be no actual losers. McGregor will lose the fight, and Mayweather will be a winner. Yet McGregor will be a winner, too, because he’ll have made a ton of money and he will have simply lost a fight he was supposed to lose. Mixed martial arts and boxing both benefit from a complete mismatch that shouldn’t be happening but that will make hundreds of millions of dollars anyway.
But what exactly happens if McGregor beats Mayweather? More specifically, what happens to the sport of boxing, its fan base, and the progress of mixed martial arts?
Continued growth for MMA
Mixed martial arts, led by the UFC, is eating boxing’s lunch already. For one of its champions — not even someone who is undefeated, but who lost as recently as a couple fights ago — to walk into a longer-established sport like boxing and score a win over a 49-0 fighter…it’s unthinkable. But if it happens, then MMA soars to new heights.
There is no more debate at that point. Boxing will still have fans, but anybody new to combat sports caught in the hype, already a fan of MMA, or a fringe boxing fan to begin with, will clearly understand that mixed martial arts is the premier combat sport, whether that is actually true or not.
It could even result in more young athletes going into mixed martial arts than boxing. Drawing young, promising athletes into the sport is crucial for longevity. Boxing would die without an influx of talent.
Obscurity for boxing
Everything that was said for mixed martial arts above, but the opposite. Boxing’s top stars are doing quite well for themselves, and those who compete in or love the sport will still do so. But mixed martial arts has been an ongoing thorn in boxing’s side from an audience standpoint for a long time, and it will not get any better if Mayweather, a 49-0 boxer and the best in the world, loses.
This could even be true in the event of a boring Mayweather win, which seems likely. Mayweather is an incredible talent, but his evasiveness and frustrating game planning aren’t always the most interesting things to watch. A masterful, dominant display of technical counter-fighting en route to a decision victory for Mayweather likely wouldn’t hook many new fans.
A fluke that a rematch wouldn’t fix
Mayweather is undefeated. Losing to McGregor and then going back and winning the fight he was always supposed to win in the first place would not restore his undefeated record. It wouldn’t make for an unblemished (in-ring) career. And for the sport of boxing, it wouldn’t be correcting a wrong.
The best boxer of this generation would have lost to someone who had never competed in the sport before. There is no going back from that, regardless of how Mayweather beats McGregor in a rematch. It is potentially irreparable damage to the sport of boxing in its current form.