Is boxing losing popularity due to the rise of mixed martial arts? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding no . The reasons are simple – both sports are very different, have different core audiences, and have different talent pools.
For all of their wonderful similarities – punches thrown, gloves worn, and often violent concluding, boxing and MMA are each cooked under disparate sets of rules. In boxing, fighters use their hands punches only ) as weapons, fight three-minute rounds, and can only fight for a maximum of 12 rounds based on the unified rules of boxing decisions. In MMA, fighters can use their hands ( punches and grappling) and legs ( kicks and grappling ) as weapons, fight five-minute rounds, and can only fight a maximum of five rounds based on ultimate championship fighting rules. The rules could not be any more different.
Although both boxing and MMA have a similar appeal based on the combative nature of each sport and both attract predominantly male demographics, they have very distinct core audiences. In recent years, boxing has become more of a niche sport – supported by communities and countries where the sport is a pastime (eg Mexico, the Philippines and Puerto Rico) and dedicated die-hards like me who have continued to follow the sport since its declining national popularity. MMA, on the other hand, is supported by a mixed bag of sorts. While it does have its share of "boxing defectors," MMA's audience is a hodgepodge of fans of martial arts, kick-boxing, and even, so-called "professional wrestling." Right now, the fan base is also not as diverse as boxing's, but that will certainly change as the popularity grows.
Fighters are cut from the same cloth, right? This is not true, when it comes to boxing and MMA. Today, boxing's best and brightest stars still come largely from depressed or hard-scrabble communities, both rural and urban, as has been the case for decades. The only difference now is that many of the top fighters come from countries across the globe, as many Americans from humble beginnings no longer see boxing as their "athletic path to success." As a result, you are just as likely to see a Ring champion crowned from such fertile boxing soil as Cuba or the Ukraine – foreign lands where boxing is still a pastime and many of its citizens still view the sweet science as an "athletic path to success. " While it would appear that becoming an MMA fighter is a decision that is driven by similar (limited) opportunities that push many men to become boxers, the reality is far different. Many practitioners of MMA are former college wrestlers, globetrotting martial artists, or previously well-paid professional wrestlers, who often have college degrees and other career options which believe their profession.
As you can see, comparing boxing to MMA is understandable on the surface, but downright silly upon further inspection. To the untrained eye, boxing and MMA are eerily similar sports on a collision course for the hearts and minds of fight fans everywhere. However, I do not see it that way. In fact, I think this ongoing explanation will only lead to the increased popularity of both sports.