Like a lot of people, I watched the big fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor on Saturday night. The claim is it made six gorillion dollars and a bazillion people watched it. As is always the case these days, the numbers are all lies and the real numbers are vastly lower than claimed. The live gate was about what you see from a typical fight, but the PPV was probably much higher than typical. UFC fans are conditioned to view their sport through television and on-line, rather than live.
Despite the fakery, it was a big deal and even casual fans found a way to watch it. The dirty little secret of modern life is that watching these things via a pirate stream is getting easier and more difficult to police. As we saw with the music business, the video rackets are nearing that point where the cost of policing the underground feeds will exceed the value of their product. There are simply too many ways to get around the paywalls and blocking mechanisms. This fight was probably the last big pay-per-view fight will see.
That’s always the problem with artificial scarcity. It works for a while as the laws of supply and demand are universal. Make something scarce, relative to demand, and the prices rise. There is another universal law of economics though. Anything that has value will be stolen or faked. That means attempts to create artificial scarcity will be met with equal efforts to get around those barriers. That’s what happened to the music business and now music is just about free. That’s what is happening with pay television.
Still, the fight proved something that our betters have been telling us was no longer true and than is men still like being men. Fights are never and can never be pink hat affairs, where the girls show up and pretend to be fans. Boxing and MMA are male sports aimed explicitly at men. This fight was a contest between a bigger, younger man versus the older, but vastly more skilled smaller man. Men enjoy seeing that sort of thing. We like competition, but we like comparisons and contrasts in our competition.
During the broadcast, it became clear that the on-air people were instructed to use the phrase “combat sport” rather than the more common phrases. My hunch is the promoters saw the numbers for this thing and see a chance to bring fighting back as a popular sport again. Boxing killed itself with corruption and the UFC has a bum problem, but there is a market for good fights and the UFC is great at selling their product to young males. The contrast is styles between McGregor and Mayweather made it a great show.
If they fused the two sports, dropping the wrestling and tackling stuff entirely, there is a good chance they can create fun shows like this on a regular basis. Imagine if McGregor was allowed to kick and rabbit punch. It probably would not have changed the outcome, but it it would have made it a bit more fair. Change the ring to make the ropes more sturdy, like the cage in UFC, and the boxer has to change his strategy. There is a middle ground where you can create fun and interesting contests that men will pay to see.
The other thing the UFC can teach boxing is how to develop its talent. Boxing was destroyed by the crack epidemic. The urban gyms that worked as feeder systems for boxing were wiped out by the crack wars. The young guys looking for a way out of the ghetto were drawn into the big money of the drug game. Those still looking to go straight were too afraid to go into the rough areas where boxing gyms tend to be located. As a result, the flow of young talent in the US evaporated and so did the fan base.
That’s the thing about MMA, which boxing can adopt. Go around the country and the mixed martial arts gyms are now where the old martial arts places were located. That’s in suburban shopping centers. Middle-class white women are fine letting their boys go to these places as it feels safe and their snowflake is not getting bullied by urban blacks or robbed in the parking lot. Boxing can be sold to the white middle-class again, but in has to be sold on their turf. White people with kids no longer live in cities.
That’s not to say boxing can ever make a comeback, at least to the status it once enjoyed. That world is gone. We live in the age of niche sports. Even mighty football (American) is feeling the pinch. There will always be a market for men fighting one another under agreed upon rules. Boxing and MMA are just that. If the end result is some fusion of the two that is both white-ish and suburban, that’s not a terrible result. Healthy cultures have ways for men to compete, as well as watch and encourage other men to compete.
As to the fight itself, it was a fun show. As I pointed out prior to the fight, boxers are vastly better conditioned than MMA guys. McGregor was sucking wind in the third round and by the sixth he was clearly gassed. Mayweather is a great boxer and he knew exactly how to take apart McGregor. That said, the Irishman had a great plan and executed it well. He showed tremendous heart. He was just beaten by the better boxer, like everyone else Mayweather has faced. Both acquitted themselves well. It was a great show.