By Bryanna Fissori
From the Reebok manufactured “Zuffa Boxing” T-shirt to “I could see that happening,” to “We are 100 percent getting into boxing.”
UFC President Dana White is has masterfully kept fans and fighters on the edge of their seats waiting to see what the next move will be for the UFC. Rumors of a boxing promotion have been floating around since White first appeared at an interview wearing a shirt baring the logo “Zuffa Boxing.” Zuffa is a subsidiary of the UFC conglomerate and the former parent company of the promotion prior to the acquisition by WME-IMG last year.
“I’m not leaving the UFC. I’m getting into boxing with [WME-IMG head] Ari [Emanuel] and the UFC will be doing boxing, too,” White told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s still early. We’re still working on it. I’ve got to get my s**t together, but I’m getting into boxing, man. It’s coming.”
The UFC Brand
“I just know how good we are at what we do, and I know we’re better than pretty much everybody else out there,” White said. “I think that the guys who are involved in boxing, the fighters, would enjoy being under this umbrella and fighting for us, and yeah, I do think would could do it better than everybody else does.”
White commented that there is no “brand” in boxing. Everyone is out to make money without investing in the sport or thinking of the future. According to White, from a financial standpoint,
“. . . There’s no brand. There’s a bunch of cowboys. Every time there’s a boxing fight, it’s a going-out-of-business sale: ‘Let us get as much money as we can from everybody and let’s get the hell out of here.’ Right? That’s how boxing has always done business.”
There is no question that they UFC has done an amazing job in branding the organization and fighters underneath the promotion’s banner. For the general non-fan, the UFC is still a familiar acronym while Premier Boxing Championship, Top Rank or the like are much less likely to be recognized by the masses.
It is safe to say that even in the boxing industry, most competitive boxers could tell you what the UFC is, while many MMA fighters would be hard-pressed to list boxing promotions.
Well-Rounded Fight Cards
Making an entire fight-card engaging from top to bottom is another area where the UFC excels. Last weekend’s UFC 217 was one of the most exciting cards in recent history starting all the way from the bottom of the card on the UFC Fight Pass early preliminary fights to the Pay-per-view main event (Georges Saint-Pierre v Michael Bisping) at Madison Square Garden.
Boxing is known to have their cards stacked top heavy with lower payouts for earlier fights, corresponding heavily with anticipated lack of attendance and viewers for those bouts. There are generally not promoted with any significance and it is a given that most fans will show up or tune in specifically for just the main event.
“My job is to make sure every time you turn your TV off, you feel like you got your money’s worth,” said White. “I can’t guarantee [a single fight] is going to be the best you’ve ever seen. That’s why you have to stack the card and [ensure] everyone on that card makes money. … We spread the money around.”
The minimum amount that a UFC fighter is guaranteed is $10k to show up and $10k to win. More on this in BoxingInsider.com’s previous breakdown of the difference in fight purses here.
Playing Well with Others
The UFC is the top of the industry in MMA. Serious competition is minimal. In boxing the playing field is a bit more even and promoters are decently outspoken against each other. As the voice box for the UFC, White has not been known to hold back his thoughts. From an outside/fan perspective, this could make things interesting. Just in the short time White has been active in the boxing world he has delivered the clear message that boxing needs help. That message has not consistently been well received, especially by established industry professionals such as Bob Arum of Top Rank Boxing.
“The history of boxing … we all know boxing is broken,” said White. “The question is, how do you fix boxing?”
The Unknowns in Zuffa /UFC Boxing
• The Name:
So, the shirt said “Zuffa Boxing.” Zuffa is the former parent company of the UFC, but is now owned as part of the UFC conglomerate by WME-IMG. It may not be such a bad idea to deviate from the “UFC” name when promoting boxing in order to avoid confusion. This means that the company’s promotion could be titled “Zuffa Boxing.”
The name Zuffa is well known to the majority of MMA fighters already. And it is very plausible that the company could build the boxing promotion under that title.
• The In-House Potential
There is a lot of potential in-house talent that have already vocalized a desire to make the cross over to boxing. Some of these current UFC fighters include Jose Aldo, Stipe Miocic, Jimi Manuwa and Cris Cyborg. There are countless other UFC fighters and other Mixed Martial Artists across various promotions who have competed as boxers at some point in their careers (Holly Holm, Joe Duffy, KJ Noons, Vitor Belfort to name a few), but found MMA more profitable at the lower levels. With an option to climb the ranks in both sports, this could open up a lot of potential crossover. How that crossover would look will take a bit of effort from the contractual standpoint of the UFC’s legal team.
• How Soon is it Coming?
The UFC was not built in a day. The company is known for taking chances and trying new things, but there are licensing and regulatory hoops to jump through before WME-IMG can enter the world of boxing. The Conor McGregor boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. earlier this year was a baby step for the company to get their feet wet. It should still take some time to set all of the legal and regulatory aspects of boxing in place, obtain licensing, competitors and to learn the ropes (rather than the cage). Given the UFC’s ability to put the right people in the right places, mid next year would be reasonable, though White has surprised us before . . .