Is the writing on the wall?
Famed MMA organization UFC/Zuffa recently announced it plans to expand its services to boxing.
And earlier this week, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao was seen on social media attempting to goad MMA star Conor McGregor into a boxing match.
Will Pacquiao vs McGregor serve as UFC’s first high-profile boxing match?
Before getting excited, fight fans should consider the obstacles.
Hurdle 1 – Top Rank
Should Manny face Conor, Pacquiao would have to sign with UFC and would likely have to bend to its demands because there’s not tremendous public interest in Pacquiao vs McGregor.
And at this point, who knows how Pacquiao’s current promoter, Top Rank, would react? Perhaps it would be willing to accept money to allow Pacquiao to fight under the UFC banner? Or Top Rank might ask to be the secondary promoter just as UFC played second fiddle to Mayweather & Co in Mayweather vs McGregor.
Hurdle 2 – Money and Leverage
In Floyd vs Conor, Mayweather had all the leverage as McGregor begged for Floyd for the fight; and there was massive public demand for it. As a result, Floyd’s team was the lead promotional company and UFC had to bend the demands of The Money Team and accept that Floyd would pocket a lionshare of the purse.
Given the circumstances for Pacquiao vs McGregor, Conor is going want at least a 50-50 purse split; And that might be a very modest estimate. Don’t be surprised if Conor demands a 65-35 split to face Pacquiao. Keep in mind, McGregor earned a lot more in his last fight (Mayweather) than PacMan earned in his (Jeff Horn) and Conor will make sure everyone involved is aware.
Manny earned a purported $10 Million for facing obscure opponent Jeff Horn in July while McGregor pocketed upwards of $30 Million plus for the Mayweather fight. Satisfying both guys won’t be easy, and any offer under $12 Million (after Top Rank got its share) would probably be offensive to Manny.
Could Manny and Conor pocket $15 million apiece while UFC still made a profit?
Hurdle 3 – Intangibles
UFC’s business model, at least up till now, hasn’t allowed the organization to pay its top fighters anywhere near top boxers promoted and managed by those in boxing. And beacuse both guys, Pacquiao and McGregor, have lost their most recent fights, don’t expect the public to be giddy over Manny vs Conor.
However, Conor is still the most popular MMA fighter in the world while Manny is a fight legend and international mainstream star, and widespread curiosity of what would happen in such a match would make Pacquiao vs McGregor big to a degree. … But would it be big enough satisfy the pockets of Manny, Conor, UFC and Top Rank?
Also, Pacquiao is a straight-laced, all-around good guy and not the brash, controversial and sometimes arrogant person Floyd Mayweather is. Pacquiao isn’t going to trade insults with Conor the same way Floyd did and that, unfortunately, could negatively impact the fight’s bottom line.
If you’re promoting this fight, the ‘good guy vs bad guy’ theme is the only way to go.
Can that theme be successfully sold to the public?
Hurdle 4 – The Risk
UFC’s biggest star could get seriously hurt or embarrassed.
Manny asked Conor if he’d like to engage in a “real boxing match” so one can assume Pacquiao, like many, think Mayweather carried Conor for the first eight rounds for entertainment purposes. For all that money, perhaps a kindler, gentler Mayweather wanted to give the fans a show.
If Pacquiao wanted to KO Conor early, he would.
At what point might UFC conclude the long term potential risk of Pacquiao vs McGregor far exceeds the few extra dollars – if any is left – for making this fight.