What is the Hold Up for Zuffa Boxing?
By Bryanna Fissori
It has been about a year now since the combat sports world first saw the “Zuffa Boxing” image across UFC President Dana White’s red Reebok shirt. This was during the hype for the Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather Jr fight in August of 2017. How the time does fly . . .
Zuffa Boxing Recap
Shortly after the bout, which was largely a financial success, Dana White announced that the rumors were true. The UFC parent company was indeed looking to enter the boxing ring as the world’s newest promotion on the block.
Over the last year, White has made a number of claims about what the promotion will and won’t do. Here are a few:
- Zuffa Boxing will NOT have a roster of current UFC fighters
- Cards will be structured so that all of the fights are hyped (as opposed to just the main event, which is common in boxing)
- Up and coming fighters will be heavily promoted to build star-status
- The promotion will not be structured under a sanctioning body
- Zuffa Boxing will have its own champions
- He will not work with Oscar De La Hoya or Bob Arum
Reasons for the Delay
There have been rumors that White’s first big signing would be Anthony Joshua, which is certainly a go-big-or-go-home type of move. Though that doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now, it would be a stretch to think that this the primary reason for the delay. White has also commented that Joshua’s manager, Eddie Hern is “oversensitive.” No one ever said White was good at making friends.
The UFC has certainly kept White busy, hosting a card nearly every weekend. Plus additional shows like “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series” and “Dana White- Looking for a Fight.” Both of these require White’s presence. Though a busy man, that is certainly not the only reason for the delay in Zuffa Boxing progress.
Status: It’s Complicated
All of White’s previous assertions about what Zuffa Boxing will and won’t do could be complicated. The promotion will need a full roster if it is going to operate independently of other organizations and sanctioning bodies. It would need to the time and resources for promotion, and is limited on partners with De La Hoya and Arum out of the question. Not to mention the legalities of skirting the Muhamad Ali Act.
“This is one of those things I said I’m going to put my toe in, I’m not diving in head first. We’re still working on stuff. A lot of things didn’t line up the way that I thought they would in the boxing world when I said we’re about to make a ballsy move,” White said on UFC Unfiltered.
“The thing kind of took a left turn, so I wasn’t able to make an offer on that deal yet. But when that deal does happen, and when it comes, I’m going to jump in.”
Implications for Zuffa Boxing Sanctioning Intentions
By Bryanna Fissori
Dana White has been teasing fans and fighters with the possibility of Zuffa Boxing becoming boxing’s latest promotional phenomenon.
Multiple press conferences and interviews have confirmed that the promotion will be hosted under the UFC umbrella with a similar format, which is heavily based on promoting and building the personalities of fighters through widespread marketing. Unlike most current boxing promotions which base the vast majority of marketing on only the main event, the UFC is known to have cards that have a significant draw starting at the undercard.
Zuffa Boxing Scouts Talent
Though nothing has been confirmed, there have been solid rumors that WBO champion Mikey Garcia is on Zuffa’s list of boxers they would like to sign. Anthony Joshua is also at the top of that list. Many other boxers and current UFC fighters have also shown interest in the promotion.
In an interview several months ago, White stated that he would not be moving his MMA fighters to over boxing. That being said, White also previously stated that women would never be in the UFC. The reality will likely depend on whatever makes the most financial sense.
New Boxing Sanctioning
One of the potential hiccups for Zuffa Boxing is that they have a number of limitations on current boxing enterprises that they will work with. White has been vocal about his distaste for Golden Boy Promotions, Top Rand and Showtime. Just a few days ago, White also confirmed that Zuffa Boxing would not work with any of the current boxing sanctioning bodies. These include the WBA, WBC, IBF, IBO and WBO.
Over the years there has been continual talk of belt unification since there are so many different sanctioning bodies. Zuffa Boxing is uninterested in that conversation and intends to create a separate league. This is not a big surprise. The UFC has found a great amount of success in promoting their champions as superior to those of other organizations.
Ali Act Implications
The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act is a major part of deciding what can and cannot happen on the business end of boxing. Having both a promotion and a sanctioning body may prove difficult under the rules of the Ali Act. The Ali Act does not explicitly deny a promotion the ability to also host a sanctioning body. But there is an approval process through the ABC and Federal Trade Commission that has to be completed before the sanctioning body can receive compensation. There are also tight restrictions on contracts and ancillary rights agreements that differ from the UFC’s current protocol.
There is a currently a movement amongst MMA fighters to extend the Ali Act to encompass all combat sports participants. The UFC has opposed the movement.
What’s Next for Zuffa Boxing?
It has been nearly 10 months since Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. stood toe to toe in the ring. Rumors of Zuffa Boxing began before the first bell rang. Since then, fighters and fans have been waiting to see what is next. Unlike a small regional promotion, Zuffa Boxing will have a lot more legwork to do before hosting their own boxing card. This is especially true if they plan to create their own sanctioning body and fresh set of fighters contracted to the organization. Until then, we continue to wait and see.