You could probably start a brawl amongst hardened fight fans by asking the question, ‘Which is the best combat sport in the world, boxing or MMA?’ Historically, boxing has been the world’s most popular combat sport, but things are changing.
MMA is growing in popularity, fuelled by the excitement and anticipation that their marketing department generates when it comes to showdowns inside the cage. Fans want to see the best fighters facing off against each other and they’re prepared to pay for it.
The bigger the hype, the bigger the pay-per-view figures, but when it comes to the most hyped fights ever, who makes it into the top five?
The five most hyped boxing and MMA fights ever
5. Rousey vs. Holm, UFC 193
Date: 14th November, 2015
A total of 56,214 people filled the Etihad stadium in Melbourne, making it the most attended UFC event in history.
Rousey was the superstar and heavy favourite for this contest and the UFC marketing machine had been in overdrive. A trailer promoting the contest had even debuted on the Ellen DeGeneres show.
Rousey was the bantamweight titleholder and undefeated in 12 fights. Only once in her career had she ever gone beyond the first round and her last four bouts had lasted on average a meagre 32.5 seconds. It’s events like this which make placing a bet on UFC so difficult; the majority of bettors backed Rousey, but they were left disappointed.
Before the bout, Holly Holm’s record was an impressive 9-0, but she was still the underdog going in to the contest. However, a superb head-kick in the second round saw the American knock out Rousey and inflict her first ever defeat.
Holm’s victory saw her became the only person in history to win world titles in both boxing and UFC. Rousey’s defeat is still seen as one of the biggest upsets in combat sports history.
4. Lesnar vs. Frank Mir, UFC 100
Date: July 11th 2009
Location: Las Vegas
To many fight fans UFC 100 was the moment that UFC became more than a niche sport and crossed over into the wider sports media. It was the first year the UFC had created an International Fight Week, ramping up the anticipation for the heavyweight clash of Lesnar and Frank Mir.
Although many fans couldn’t get a ticket, such was the hype, they descended on Vegas merely to be part of the atmosphere. With 1.6 million buys, UFC 100 became the most bought UFC pay-per-view of all time.
Brock Lesnar was a former WWE superstar and had made the switch to MMA the year before. This fight was a re-match after an inexperienced Lesnar suffered a first-round submission in their previous clash.
The fight did not live up to the hype with Lesnar a convincing winner as he won by a second round KO to become the UFC undisputed heavyweight champion.
3. Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor, UFC 229
Sport: Mixed martial arts
Date: October 6th, 2018
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
On paper this was a fight between the reigning UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and fan favourite Conor McGregor, the former lightweight and featherweight champion. But in reality, it was personal.
The run up to the fight had seen both fighters trade personal slurs, turning the contest into a grudge match and a must see for fans the world over. A sold-out T-Mobile arena watched Khabib triumph in four rounds but it was the fireworks after the fight that will live longer in the memory.
Both camps became embroiled in brawls as fighting spilt outside the cage and chaos ensued, but with 2.5 million pay-per-view buys this remains the biggest selling MMA fight of all time.
2: Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor
Date: August 26th, 2017
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
What do you get when you put a lightweight champion MMA superstar in a boxing ring with an undefeated eleven-time boxing world champion? The answer is the second highest ever pay-per-view sales of 4.3 million.
With no title or belt on the line this fight was viewed by some as a stunt or simply a money-making scheme. In reality it was a triumph of marketing and hype and one of the most eagerly anticipated and talked about fights in history.
The epic pre-fight promotion saw both fighters undertake a four-city tour and the bout even boasted its own song performed by The Killers. Branded the ‘Money Fight,’ both sides are rumoured to have walked away with over $100 million.
Not surprisingly the fight could not live up to the unprecedented hype and Mayweather recorded a straight-forward victory, stopping McGregor in the tenth round.
1. Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao
Date: May 2nd, 2015
Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Who is the greatest fighter of this generation? Well, Mayweather vs Pacquiao promised to answer that question once and for all. After six years of rumours and negotiations the world finally got to see the fight they’d all been waiting for.
Manny Pacquiao is the only boxer in history to win 12 world titles in 8 different weight divisions. Named the Boxing Writers Association of America’s ‘Fighter of the Decade 2000,’ he is regarded by many as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time.
Floyd Mayweather Jr was undefeated, a winner of 15 world titles and named ‘Fighter of the Decade 2010’ by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Promoters called it ‘The Fight of the Century,’ illustrating the hype surrounding the bout, although in reality both boxers were well into their thirties and past their best. The fight went the distance but the American Mayweather won comfortably on points.
The world of combat sport thrives on creating a buzz around fights and in today’s world of social media and slick marketing departments, that hype can reach fever pitch. Inevitably that can mean some showdowns don’t always live up to their star billing, but that won’t stop us getting excited when the next big fight comes around.