(Bob, could you use this staircase to show us where boxing is today compared to, say, thirty years ago?)
The last time we heard from boxing promoter and cantankerous old white dude Bob Arum he essentially dismissed MMA types as “a bunch of skinheads who like to roll around like homosexuals.” In other words, Dale Carnegie this guy is not. Good news is, Arum managed to keep the homophobia under wraps this week when he and prized possession Manny Pacquiao sat down with USA Today writers Sergio Non and Scott Zucker. Unfortunately, when the topic of MMA came up, Arum continued to weirdly define his objections to our sport on the basis of race. It’s almost as if he’s trying to distract us from something else … something like realizing his words are just the impotent flailing of an old man who realizes his place in the world grows smaller each day …
“I don’t want to demean UFC, because they’ve done a marvelous job of marketing,” Arum said, in response to a question from Non about the record-breaking ticket sales in Toronto for UFC 129. “But it’s the same audience over and over. It’s white males, and they have never been able to expand their demographic … Hey, this country is becoming more and more Hispanic, and it’s growing (more) African-American (in the) audience. So the future success of UFC is limited. The success of boxing is not, because boxing reaches those groups. The only demographic that boxing has lost is the white, young males, period.”
Yeah, we don’t know if it’s technically correct to say the UFC has “never been able to expand their demographic,” as the company’s current international expansion flies directly in the face of that statement. As Non correctly points out in his own blog on subject, Arum conveniently leaves out “non-Caucasian groups” like Brazilians and the people of the city of Japan, who both seem to like MMA okay. Not to mention the rise of current Latino fighters like Cain Velasquez, who appeared to draw pretty well from that particular demographic while he was whipping Brock Lesnar’s ass in Anaheim.
We could also talk about the recent rumblings that the UFC might bring “The Ultimate Fighter” to the Philippines this year – and the large crowds Anderson Silva and GSP recently drew during promotional trips there – or talk about the promotion’s plans for more shows in the middle east and its current work to make inroads into India and China … all that maybe makes too much sense for Bob Arum … but to really know that the 79-year-old promoter (79!) is totally missing the point about the popularity of MMA, we need to look no further than the following quote.
Just a bit of set-up: Part of Non’s original question referenced a recent boxing match between Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley in Detroit, which only sold 6,000 tickets. He wanted to know what boxing coud “take marketing-wise from an up-and-coming combat sport like MMA?” Arum responded thusly:
“That event didn’t belong in Detroit,” he said. “Neither fighter came from Detroit. Neither fighter was that well known. It was put in a building that has long functioned as a normal sporting arena. In boxing, typically, fights not on the magnitude of big title fights with Pacquiao or Mayweather, generally draw 4,000 to 5,000 people. This goes back to the ’70s and ’80s.”
Boxing events don’t draw well if they’re not in Vegas and they don’t have Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather on the card, huh? So, we guess now would be a good time to tell Bob Arum that – by way of comparison — during the last calendar year the UFC packed houses in Nevada, Australia, Colorado, New Jersey, North Carolina, Abu ****in’ Dhabi, Quebec, British Colombia, California, Massachusetts, Indiana, England, Germany and … let’s see … where else … oh yeah, Detroit. The UFC sold out the Palace of Auburn Hills with a main event featuring one guy from Memphis and one guy from Brazil.
Not too shabby, huh? Now, if this sport could just get some traction in a widespread demographic, we might really have something here …