Months ago UFC President Dana White told the world what he thought of heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua (20-0), who is the top of the food chain in the division.
“In my opinion, he’s the most marketable guy in boxing,” White told reporters back in December.
White has gone into detail about his thoughts on the sport of boxing as it stands today. Following up on the UFC’s involvement with the Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor fight last summer, White has also been vocal about the UFC’s intention to enter the world of the “sweet science” under the promotional banner “Zuffa Boxing.” No moves had been made up to this point, but that could all change very soon.
The boxing media scrum is alive and alert with anticipation now that there is talk of a potential multi-fight deal with Joshua, which could be worth as much as $500 million. Those are big numbers even for boxing.
One of the biggest contentions between the sports of boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) is the pay differential. The UFC has arguably the largest pool of high-level MMA talent. Because of there similar structure, boxing and MMA are often compared on multiple fronts, one of those being their payouts. The main event on most high-level boxing typically pays a lot more than the main event on a UFC card.
White has stated that the difference is the depth of the card. UFC events are structured to have entertaining and crowd-drawing fights throughout the card, which means that the money more evenly distributed, allowing fighters better odd of being able to make a living as a competitor.
“Seats are empty until the main event starts,” asserted White, who also told reporters that he was guilty of missing the entire undercard on the card he was involved in over the summer. The only fight he watched on the Mayweather v McGregor card was the main event.
The UFC has a knack for building stars in the promotion, which makes them marketable, fills the seats and pushes the pay per view numbers. White has stated that he has no plans to bring any of the UFC roster over to boxing, despite interest from several UFC fighters. Current UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic has been vocal about wanting to match up against Joshua. Joshua himself has mentioned targeting UFC fighters Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones in potential MMA match ups.
“Yeah. I’d have to obviously have a couple of warm-up fights because you have to learn the submissions and stuff. But a fight’s a fight at the end of the day. Yeah man, I’d do it,” Joshua said in an interview with Sky Sports podcast.
In a recent interview with ESPN, White explained how he plans to bring over new talent.
“We’re going to meet. I’m going to walk you through this new facility, show you the gym, the trainers, all the amenities. Free supplements, physical therapy, we’ll cook your food exactly how you like it three times per day. You’ll get health insurance . . . who can offer you a better deal than me in combat sports? F—k boxing, MMA, whatever it is. Who can offer a better deal than me? The answer is nobody. This is what we do. Keep doubting us.”
Joshua’s next performance is happening at the end of the month against Joseph Parker (24-0) from New Zealand. In five years, Joshua has managed to climb to the top of the division and become one of the highest paid athletes in the sport. White is planning to be at the fight in hopes of wooing Joshua with an offer that beats out promoter Eddie Hearn, who has already established himself as a staple in the industry. Joshua is expected to make approximately $20 million on the Parker fight, which is consistent with earnings from his most recent win against Wladimir Klitschko.
Joshua still has a year left on his contract with Hearn and Matchroom Promotions. The Parker fight is also the last on his exclusive U.S. TV deal with Showtime, though he is likely to continue with the broadcast network. Could this mean a potential partnership with Hearn as well, or is Zuffa Boxing really swooping in?
“We’ll listen, and 100 percent if it makes sense, we’re all in,” Joshua told ESPN.“So I’m happy that Dana’s coming into the game. Hopefully, we can add some excitement and we can progress forward and make some more money and make some good fights.”