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The Arrival Of Zuffa Boxing

For those boxing fans who have a toe in both the boxing and MMA world, the desire of UFC President Dana White to get back into boxing has been a subject of interest to those who first heard of his renewed enthusiasm during the press events for the Mayweather vs McGregor fight.

Now two years later, Mr White appears to be ready to finally launch his vision to fix the supposed broken model of boxing. What’s broken about it? No one knows. Because even when asked on Chris Mannix’s recent podcast with Mr.White, Dana was not ready to reveal his solution to fix boxing.

This is the bizarre form of open-arm acceptance that Dana has received from every pundit who has asked him about his oft-delayed venture into the sport. He is never asked for specifics because he’s supposedly not ready to reveal his plan. Perhaps not even in October when he will announce who he has chosen to lead his boxing arm.

There is a fascinating moment in the opening moments of the podcast where Dana White talks about how boxing has made a lot of money in the last hundred years but it remains a broken model. All the while you can almost hear Mannix solemnly nod his head in approval without asking, “If the model is broken, how does it make money?”.

For anyone who follows the UFC, the ability of Dana White to completely reverse his viewpoints in the space of seconds is well-known. But now he wants to get into boxing where the fanbase loves nothing more than to mock promoters for their constantly shifting attitudes. Something Mannix apparently has been able to avoid despite his years in the sport.

So what is Zuffa boxing going to be? Who the fuck knows? From what I know of the business they want to leverage their freshly completed Las Vegas based production studio that allows them to produce shows without having to send crews around the world. Dana talks breathlessly about how the UFC Performance Institutes they are building in China and Mexico will be the centerpiece to their boxing world.

Which leads to a comical vision of the hook to this new venture is offering solid meals to the poor unfortunate souls around the world who will fight in sterile environments with nothing but the reflections off the camera lenses to denote anyone is watching. All the while a production crew in Las Vegas chooses the best angle to show them being beaten unconscious by their opponent who wants that free food just a bit more than they do. Dystopian? Hey, Dana didn’t get rich by playing nice.

While Dana loves to take credit for the UFC, the true key players in the success of the outfit were Lorenzo Fertitta and even more importantly, Joe Silva, the matchmaker they inherited when they purchased the promotion. Joe Silva’s viciousness in keeping costs down were legendary but largely unreported by the first wave of MMA journalists who soon learned that if you talked bad about the outfit, you would lose your credentials. But thanks to the recent depositions surrounding the antitrust lawsuit regarding the UFC’s business, their actual attitudes regarding fighters is on full display.

There were executives who took maniacal glee in reducing the amount of money fighters would earn when the UFC implemented their “sponsor tax” which had no aim other than to pave the way for the UFC to institute their own sponsor policy that would exclude fighters and lead to the pitiful Reebok payments. There are email quotes from UFC executives where they modeled that fighter revenue would drop around 40%-50% which they seemingly viewed as a positive.

Or take the example of Hector Lombard where he was in the 4th fight of an 8 fight contract that was seeing him be paid $205K to show and $75K to win. But the UFC decided that was too much money so Joe Silva offered him two choices; Lombard could either be cut or he could take a one-fight deal for $100K.

This is the world Dana White wants to bring with Zuffa Boxing while claiming to the poorly informed that Dana’s history is about fighter well-being. Using the same UFC tropes such as “The Best fight the Best”, Dana White was able to cite unchallenged by Mannix his offering of Conor McGregor as someone who will fight “anyone”. Conor McGregor has never defended a title belt in his entire MMA career. Yet in boxing they both agreed that champions were somehow never challenged.

Boxing is an easy target for ridicule because there is no central public relations firm to keep the grumbling in line. Boxing is a sport of individual appeal and while UFC was able to maintain the premise for many years that the brand was bigger than the fighters, the Fertitta’s looked for the exit the moment they knew that the UFC was becoming dependent on personalities such as George St-Pierre, Brock Lesnar and then Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey.

Chris Mannix was also able to continue to push his personal vendetta against Floyd Mayweather in support of Dana’s claims of providing the best fights by stating that Floyd was able to cherry-pick the back-end of his career. This is the same Chris Mannix who stated that Shane Mosley would not only beat Floyd but upon having failed that, Mosley would beat Canelo. Floyd, the supposed cherry-picker beat both men. But hey, what do facts matter between two bros that are trying to fix a broken sport?

Dana made another bold pronouncement that he has 600 fighters under contract and they all get paid. There are 22000 active male boxers in the professional ranks. Unless Conor McGregor comes back to fight, it will be unlikely that there will be a single UFC fighter that will be guaranteed a million dollar purse. At this point in time for boxing there are almost twenty boxers who have been guaranteed more than a million dollars. With only eight of them being involved in headlining a Pay-Per-View bout.

To deflect this fact the UFC, and even Dana in this very podcast, pushes the concept that their undercard fighters make great pay compared to boxers. Great pay as long as you ignore the fact that the UFC has television contracts to broadcast these fights that amount to over two hundred million dollars annually. Yet the preliminary bout fighters usually are working on show/win contracts (illegal in boxing) that average $20K/$20K. In boxing, the vast majority of undercard fights never get broadcast.

Yet Dana will continue to get friendly press for offering up nothing but silly platitudes that even Bob Arum stopped dropping thirty years ago. What really faces Zuffa Boxing is that he wants to enact his vision that is not only stymied by federal law but by the realities of the sport. Never in boxing history have there been this many top fighters operating without promotional contracts.

The Al Haymon vision of fighters taking control of their future is in full effect. Witness that after Julian “J-Rock” Williams defeated Jarrett Hurd, J-Rock emphasized why the thanking of Al Haymon has become such a cliched moment in post-fight interviews. Because as a B-side contender, Julian was still able to amass properties to make himself a millionaire because of the guidance of Al Haymon. This is the leadership so many in the boxing writing struggle with, the boxers are telling their own stories. They no longer need the university educated white males to relate their lives to the public with tales of heartbreak and poverty. They are writing their own names into the history of the sport and there is no need for a promoter from the UFC who got rich off exploitative contracts telling them how they should give up control so he can get richer.

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