Boxing

Does UFC have a Mayweather vs. Pacquiao Blockbuster?

The Floyd Mayweather vs. Shane Mosley boxing fight is predicted to do 1.5 million buys. That number is just short of UFC’s biggest show, UFC 100. Early estimates for a Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight are between two and three million buys. With such a big Mega Fight on the table in boxing, one has to wonder if the UFC can deliver the same numbers for MMA?

I don’t think there is much argument that as an overall business, the UFC is doing far better than boxing. Other than Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather, there are no other fights in boxing that would come close to doing that business. There are some big fight possibilities for the UFC throughout 2010. However, is there anything now or in the future that could breakthrough and find mass appeal for the UFC like Mayweather vs. Pacquiao would for boxing?

Here are a few fights and scenarios that would present the UFC with some great options. Unfortunately none of these fights as things stand today are likely to generate three million buys. Yet, there are some great possibilities in the cards that could break two million for the UFC. Let’s take a look at potential blockbuster Mega Fights for the UFC over the next several months.

Rashad Evans vs. Rampage Jackson – Have you seen the commercial for UFC 114? I can’t recall any fight with better hype in 90 seconds in the history of the UFC than Rampage Jackson vs. Rashad Evans at UFC 114. The fact that people are buzzing about this fight a week before one of the most anticipated MMA rematches of the year speaks volumes to me. The delay in the fight thanks to Rampage Jackson’s budding acting career won’t make much of a difference. The interest is there and this fight has some serious potential to break records set at UFC 110. But can it break two million buys? I don’t think so.

In the perfect scenario, the Rampage vs. Evans UFC 114 fight will be an exciting fight whether it lasts one round or three. In an even more perfect scenario, the winner loses his next fight and the loser wins his next fight, thus pushing a rematch at the big year-end December UFC show. In the perfect world, the loser of UFC 114 wins, thus forcing a trilogy in 2011. The trilogy would be the money fight here in my opinion. A third and deciding fight would push or break two million buys for me. Of course things rarely goes as planned in MMA, so chances are this won’t happen. But if it did, the UFC would have a monster on their hands.

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brock Lesnar – Here we go again. This is the closest fight that MMA has to Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao. What seems like such a natural fight to make has been an absolute nightmare to make for UFC president Dana White. Skeptics point to Fedor Emelianenko’s lack of drawing power on pay-per-view as a reason that this fight won’t appeal to casual MMA fans. I don’t buy it. Between Brock Lesnar’s ability to cut promos and the UFC’s ability to air Fedor fights through the Pride FC and Affliction libraries, I think this fight has more potential than any other to break two million buys.

The timing was perfect last summer after Lesnar destroyed Frank Mir and Fedor Emelianenko became a free agent. Unfortunately things didn’t work out, but there will be other opportunities for Dana White to make this fight. I will go out on a limb and give the window of opportunity here until mid-2011 to get the most out of this matchup. Whether this fight happens in 2010 or 2013, it will be a draw but I don’t think the Mega Fight appeal will be there if this fight doesn’t happen by next summer. If it does, it has the potential to be the biggest drawing series in MMA history.

This more than any other fight is MMA’s Mayweather vs. Pacquiao both in and outside of the ring (or octagon in this case). You have two guys here that seem to be on another level as compared to their competition in the weight class. Also like Pacquiao and Mayweather, both guys cannot lose until this fight happens or risk losing millions. Fedor even more so due to his lengthy winning streak. Like Mayweather and Pacquiao who will lose millions if either one of them lose before this fight is made, Fedor’s appeal will take a big hit if he comes into this situation with a loss. It is a tough situation to be in, but Fedor has nobody but himself to blame for that.

Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre – Let me make one thing perfectly clear about this fight. I think it would be a disappointing fight to casual fans because of the styles. There is also a huge risk when one guy either has to cut or gain that much weight for such a big fight. One of these guys is likely to have some cardiovascular issues, thus this could be a boring, grueling fight to casual fans while hardcore MMA fans would eat up every second of it.

The fight seems like a natural to me. Here are two guys that have dominated their respective divisions and have no serious challengers on the horizon. I think with such little separation in weight between two elite fighters, the fight would be a natural. For some reason, the UFC has done everything in their power to avoid making this fight. The fact that GSP was out at ringside during Anderson Silva’s match at UFC 112 tells me this one was close to happening before Dana White pulled the plug.

I think these guys have the kind of appeal that crosses into the casual sports world to make this a blockbuster fight. The only drawback here is that unlike Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson who will sell this fight with their promos, you have two guys who don’t cut good promos. GSP is not a great promo guy and Silva doesn’t speak English. None of these things make a difference to hardcore MMA fans, but casual fans may not have anything to sink their teeth into. I do think this fight would eclipse the UFC 100 mark, but I don’t think it would break two million buys because of a) the promo issues and b) Anderson Silva’s UFC 112 performance. If Silva can have an exciting fight against Chael Sonnen, all will be forgotten but at this rate, that is a big if.

Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir III – If you thought this fight was dead, you have another thing coming. I think this fight is more alive than ever after recent events. If the rematch shattered records at UFC 100, a deciding fight should break it. Yes, Frank Mir lost to Shane Carwin and will have to win at least two more fights to fight for the UFC heavyweight title. But, what happens if Shane Carwin or Cain Velasquez beats Brock Lesnar? It is far from a guarantee that Lesnar will be able to go 2-0 in his next two fights. All Frank Mir needs is one win and he is back in the Brock Lesnar game.

Cain Velasquez has already been promised the match against the winner of Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin. So, if Brock Lesnar loses he will need at least one fight before he gets a rematch. What a great storyline for a Mir vs. Lesnar III. Unlike GSP vs. Anderson Silva, these two guys can cut arguably the best promos to hype a third fight in the history of the UFC. Brock Lesnar is an incredibly polarizing fighter, and all you need to do is show a casual fight fan a tape of Lesnar post-UFC 100 in Mir’s face to get him or her interested. I do think that the UFC missed the opportunity at two million the second Frank Mir got knocked out at UFC 111. Yet I do think that between the history, the personalities, and the rivalry that the UFC would have a blockbuster of a third fight on their hands should we ever see Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir again.

Brock Lesnar vs. Anderson Silva – I know I am out to left field with this one, but this fight has some serious potential. Anderson Silva has been making noises about moving up to heavyweight for a while now. I can’t see how a man that fights at middleweight could move up to heavyweight and keep his power and quickness intact, but I’d love to see him try. Brock Lesnar will have to carry the promos, but that is no problem because like him or not, he is one of the best in all of sports at hyping a fight. I don’t even know if this one would get sanctioned in the United States, but the freak factor here is enough to draw some crossover appeal into the sports world. If Brock Lesnar wins his next two fights, and Anderson Silva moves up and wins one fight at heavyweight, this fight is a lock for 2011 and some very big business.

Georges St. Pierre vs. BJ Penn III – First of all, this one is further away from happening than ever thanks to Frankie Edgar. There usually isn’t a lot of interest in seeing a third fight between two guys that fought twice before with the same before, but this would be the exception. Between BJ Penn’s abilities to sell a fight and the accusations of GSP being greased up at UFC 94, I think this is one of the few times that a scenario like that could work.

Like Frank Mir’s obsession with Brock Lesnar, BJ Penn has been obsessed with GSP since UFC 94. Some would argue that it was Penn’s obsession with GSP that allowed him to look past Frankie Edgar towards a likely GSP rematch. The deal here is that both of these guys appeal to the mainstream and casual fans know exactly who both of these guys are. Their last fight was so dominate that whether GSP greased or not, even Penn’s own critics acknowledge that there may have been something fishy with that fight because it was just too one sided. If Penn can beat Edgar at UFC 118, I think this match happens either in December or early next year.

I know that the winner of Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard has been promised a title shot. But, Dana White is no dummy and he knows that there is very little interest in a Florian vs. BJ Penn rematch. If Maynard wins, I think Penn fights Maynard next (given he beats Edgar). If Florian and Penn win, I think Dana White holds that fight off and shoots right to GSP vs. Penn. GSP vs. BJ Penn III will happen, it is only a matter of when, and when it does it could easily break two million buys.

While these are some great possibilities, a lot would have to happen to turn these UFC fights into blockbusters like boxing’s Mega Fights. None of those fights are closing in on three million buys, but in the right scenario some of those fights would eclipse Mayweather vs. Mosley numbers as well as UFC’s own records. Unfortunately as things stand now, you only have four real big possibilities of fights that could crossover and make this happen. Then again, four MMA fights are a lot better than one boxing possibility.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric’s work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

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