Saturday’s boxing fight between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. might be just what combat sports need.
Attracting young and diverse viewers perhaps are the biggest challenges — from a business perspective — facing all professional sports organizations. But a new survey from UMass Lowell and The Washington Post suggests that Mayweather-McGregor is helping both boxing and MMA achieve those goals.
UML and The Post found that 38 percent of adult Americans say they like MMA, boxing or both. Interestingly, the youngest group polled — adults between the ages of 18 and 29 — accounted for the highest percentage from that group, with 39 percent identifying as boxing fans and 37 percent for MMA. By contrast, the oldest group polled — adults ages 65 and up — accounted for the smallest percentage, with 17 percent for boxing and 13 percent for MMA.
But young fans aren’t the only demographic tuning into combat sports.
Among all African-Americans polled, 29 percent identified as fans of both MMA and boxing, while 23 percent solely follow boxing and 9 percent are MMA-only. Furthermore, 26 percent of Latinos follow both sports, with 35 percent preferring boxing and 5 percent for MMA.
So what is it about the Mayweather-McGregor bout that’s attracting so many new fans?
“About a quarter of Americans are fans of boxing and about a quarter are fans of MMA, but these are not all the same people, Prof. Joshua Dyck, co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, said in a statement. “Because the sports have developed separate followings, the potential to expand the audience for a crossover event are pretty significant: Nearly four in 10 Americans count themselves as fans of at least one of the sports.”
While these numbers certainly are encouraging for UFC and the WBC, the uniqueness of Saturday’s fight could make these numbers anomalous.
And, for all the new fans the fight has brought to combat sports, they easily could be lost if Saturday’s a dud.
Thumbnail photo via Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports Images