Conor McGregor’s victory over lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez on the November 12th UFC 205 card was significant for a number of reasons. For a start, it caused McGregor to become the first UFC fighter in history to hold titles in two weight divisions simultaneously, as he was already holding the featherweight belt.
The fact he did so in such a destructive, definitive way, knocking out Alavrez out with his vaunted left hand, also led to McGregor proving once again that he is more than just a charismatic talker. The Irishman can fight, and his skill set is second only to perhaps Demetrious Johnson in the MMA world.
It was also a huge financial success for the UFC as a whole. The event allegedly drew almost $18 million in gate receipts alone, along with around about 1.9 million PPV buys, an astronomical amount. Add to all that, it was also the first ever UFC event to be held in New York, after the controversial MMA ban was overturned earlier in 2016. The latter is as much symbolical as anything else – for much of the 20th century NYC was THE home of boxing. Increasingly however, small time promoters within boxing are being priced out due to the extremely high insurance rates now required to promote combat sports.
This event built upon UFC 202, when McGregor beat Nate Diaz at welterweight. That fight seemed to have the all-important ‘casual fan’ talking, and the interested in the charismatic McGregor only built for his showdown with Alverez. McGregor, and Ronda Rousey (despite inactivity), are the cross over stars which have helped propel MMA/UFC into the mainstream, and it doesn’t look likely to be going away anytime soon.
Contrast UFC 205 with the recent Sergey Kovalev/Andre Ward boxing match. The latter was two elite, undefeated pound for pound boxers battling it out, yet its crossover appeal was not huge. McGregor is a one off, and Kovalev and Ward are more introverted characters, but neither man has the global reach and presence of the Irishman. That isn’t either man’s fault, but boxing as a whole has been damaged severely with the plethora of governing bodies, warring promoters, blatant score card robberies, and fighters pulling out last minute.
In contrast, the UFC model ensures the best fight the best for the most part and cards are made up of competitive fights, rather than in boxing case, which are mostly made up with one sided ‘keep busy’ fights. I love boxing, and Kovalev/Ward was a wonderful contest. And, it must be added, boxing has been supposedly on its way out for years, and always found a way to survive. On an amateur level at least, boxing remains by far the more popular combat sport.
But it is impossible to see how the juggernaut UFC has become can be stopped. McGregor alone can have blockbuster contests against Diaz In a rubber match, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Rafael Dos Anjos, Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler. Add in the return of Rousey, and the records are likely to keep on breaking.