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Boxing vs MMA - Who Comes Out On Top?

To say that 'some' controversy surrounds the Boxing vs MMA popularity debate would be like saying Manny Pacquiao is a 'little bit' popular in the Philippines. Strong opinions from die hard fans of both sports can be found on all arenas of the internet. So how does one go about determining once and for all who the real winner is between the two? Well we think we've finally found a way to settle once and for all who comes out on top in the popularity contest between the sweet science and the mixed martial arts.

Will boxing fans leave the fight with a nice helping of smug satisfaction? Maybe. Will MMA fans finally get the tap out they've been looking for? Perhaps. Will the fighting metaphors keep coming like a relentless series of rabbit punches? Yes. Yes they will.


Approaching this task, we soon realized we had our work cut out for us. Days and nights were spent sifting through elaborate strings of calculation after calculation. After much deliberation, we finally settled on that timeless measure of popularity in our culture: the almighty dollar.

We decided to take a look at a few key dollar amounts to determine, once and for all, who is more popular. The gloves are off and the scene is set. Ding.

Round 1

Which Sport Gets More Paid Spectators?

Look at the gate revenue for boxing and MMA and you'll notice that boxing definitely has higher numbers. Below are some of the highest gate revenues for each of these sports:

Largest MMA Top Producing Fight from Paid Fans at the Event Dec 31, 2006 - Chuck Liddell vs Tito Oritz - Brought in $5,397,300 in revenues from 12, 191 fans that were paid spectators.

Largest Boxing Top Producing Fight from Paid Fans at the Event May 5, 2007 - Floyd Mayweather vs Oscar de la Hoya - Brought in $18,419,200 in revenues with 17,078 fans that were paid spectators.

By the gate revenue numbers not only does boxing have a larger audience, but they command a higher ticket price. The largest boxing event made three times as much as the largest MMA event. By looking at these numbers alone, it would appear as though boxing draws a larger audience than the UFC.

This could of course have everything to do with the simple fact that boxing has been an established sport longer than MMA. Thus, it is generally more accepted and gets more media coverage.

But MMA isn't to be taken lightly. Just because they haven't been around as long doesn't mean they aren't putting up a fight. Mixed martial arts has gained a lot of ground in a short amount of time and has kept the momentum going. Each year more and more fans trade in their punching bags for grappling gloves. Not only that, but this sport pulls in more fans between the ages of 18 to 35. This means that while boxing may have the upper hand for now, MMA fans are being made while they're young, and will (ideally) be buying tickets for many years to come!

Round 1 Winner: Boxing

Round 2

Which Sport Has More Pay-Per-View Purchases?

In keeping with the numbers for best gate revenue of all time, the Mayweather vs de la Hoya fight also pulled in the most PPV rates. The buy rate for that one event has been estimated at around 2.15 million. But wait. MMA isn't too far behind with their best fight bringing in approximately 1.5 million for the Brock Lesner vs Frank Mir event on July 11, 2009. As you can see by the numbers, MMA may not have the best gate revenue just yet, but it definitely appears to be gaining ground in the PPV arena.

Round 2 Winner: Boxing

Round 3

Speed Counts For Something

Although MMA's largest revenues aren't as large as the boxing events that doesn't mean they haven't been gaining popularity and earning more money in the years since the fights we've looked at here. Currently the revenue difference isn't as large as it once was. For example in 2009, an MMA event with Lesner vs Mir brought in about $5.1 million from paying spectators and 900,000 PPV buys. During that year the highest Boxing event was Pacquiao vs Cotto which brought in $8.84 million from paying fans and 1.25 million PPV buys. With MMA closing the distance in recent years, boxing may find itself all punched out in the later rounds.

Winner: MMA

Going To the Score Cards

Judges Decision: Boxing

In the great Boxing vs MMA debate, the bottom line is that boxing has been around longer. This results in being able to draw more fans and charge a higher ticket price than the MMA. That doesn't mean that MMA is far behind though. On the contrary, if the numbers we've looked at are any indication, the mixed martial arts may very well be poised to surpass boxing in the future. No matter if you find yourself in the boxing or the MMA camp, you have to agree that each of these sports have world class athletes competing in a sport that few have the determination to take on.

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