Can Dana White Shake Up Boxing?
So, guess what: Dana White is making the move to boxing. The UFC head honcho has made it known he’s going for his boxing promoter’s license, a fact which makes perfect sense in light of the MayMac pop-culture cash-in extravaganza from a few months ago, for which Dana played an integral role. For those who wonder why a man known for mixed martial arts and making the UFC into a multi-billion dollar enterprise is moving over to The Sweet Science, well, the answer is simple, not to mention obvious. Money. Tons and tons and tons of money.
The “Boxing Is Dead” chorus can keep up the tune of the same smug song it’s been singing for eons all they want. The fact is, boxing brings in more green than MMA, believe it or not. A lot more. It’s also now arguably bringing in more eyeballs. Conor McGregor and maybe Georges St-Pierre aside, Canelo Alvarez is the king of pay-per-view. This may be even more the case now that McGregor has been on the losing side in two of his last four outings.
It’s also worth pointing out that Floyd Mayweather, when you think about, put a serious beating on McGregor and Nate Diaz has piled the pain on Conor, as well. Those three battles must have taken some kind of toll. How much time, one might wonder, does McGregor have as a serious draw, assuming he doesn’t choose a cherry-picking career strategy? White may be shrewdly looking down the road and deciding it’s time to broaden his options.
But what would the presence of Dana White in boxing mean for the rest of us? What impact might he have on the world of prizefighting? Seriously, it’s hard to say. The good thing about Dana is that he’s traditionally made the best fight the best. That, however, has been in the world of mixed martial arts, where Dana more or less ruled supreme. There’s a number of competing entities in the sport of boxing, which is like the wild west compared to the tightly controlled machine that is the UFC. In other words, Dana can never call the shots in boxing the way he does in MMA.
On the other hand, if White is able to impose himself, put together a stable of boxers and then have quality fighters face off against each other on a regular basis, boxing’s other promoters may start to look bad by comparison. Boxing has gotten more competitive in 2017, and the results have been marvelous, but at the same time there’s still too many elite-level boxers not competing, too many great matches not being made. Dana, if he’s at his best, will be able to put pressure on the sport and push it to keep the momentum that’s been built up during an excellent year for the fight game.
That said, White – or rather, the UFC – is itself not above criticism and has been accused of not always playing fair. Diaz, for instance, argued that McGregor was a protected class in the UFC. The second fight between he and the Irishman may have undermined that argument, but the UFC’s rotten reputation for paying most of its name fighters peanuts, if true, is something White will have to rethink before he can be the second coming of Tex Rickard. Top boxers make tons of money. Tons of it. And they won’t play if Dana won’t pay. Why? Because they won’t have to.
If Dana wants in on boxing, then, he’s going to have to be generous with the cash flow. Provided, of course, that he wants to be a major player. This might well cause some friction with his UFC fighters, though, who, let’s face it, have every right to gripe about low paydays if their boxing counter-parts are bringing in million dollar ones.
But with all this in mind, it’s worth noting that White is a smart man, a very smart one. There’s a reason he took the UFC and built it up into a billion dollar operation. Simply put, it’s because Dana knows what he’s doing. Yet what works for MMA might not work for boxing. And here I’m talking about White’s hype machine. Just last week, for instance, Georges St-Pierre made a massive comeback against Englishman Michael Bisping. I watched the fight. It was good, exciting and satisfying. But I’m not sure it was the amazing, incredible, unbelievable classic that the exuberant fans and analysts of the UFC screamed it was for hours on end.
White has done a fine job making the UFC exciting, arguably a far better job than boxing promoters have with their own sport lately, but the UFC universe is one of hyperbole. Remember Ronda Rousey? The greatest fighter ever? The one you were told was so superhuman and awesome that you were a moron and a woman-hater if you even considered that her near-divine skill set just might be a bit overrated? Don’t forget, she got her ass kicked twice, the first time savagely. And by a former boxer.
Getting carried away in the moment and hyping a fighter’s talents to the sky clearly works in the UFC universe. Outside of it, though, that kind of thing comes across as sophomoric, if not bush league. I know, I know, the UFC is “killing boxing,” so I should just shut my mouth and “educate myself,” right? It’s Dana and Conor who have gone over to boxing, though. No one is talking about Al Haymon or Bob Arum jumping into the world of MMA.
And there’s a reason for that. Boxing is lucrative for the few who succeed at it. It’s also a time-honored sport with a long history, which gives it a certain air of respectability. So, a lot of people are certain Conor could kick Floyd’s ass in a parking lot scrap? Well guess what: it doesn’t matter. George Foreman would have likely beaten and battered Muhammad Ali in a street fight, but in the ring, with gloves and rules and a referee, is how it went down.
And that’s where it’s going to count for Dana White if he enters the boxing world – inside the ring. If he contributes to the sport, as he has to MMA (and seriously, let’s hope he does), he’s golden. But if he doesn’t, make no mistake, he’ll be shown the door. And fast. — Sean Crose