FOX will televise its third UFC card in less than a year on May 5, and for a second time they'll compete for headlines with one of boxing's biggest matches of the year.
UFC on FOX 3, headlined by Jim Miller vs. Nate Diaz, takes place on the same night as Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto on pay-per-view. The UFC faced a similar scenario when UFC on FOX 1 aired on the same night as Manny Pacquaio vs. Juan Manuel Marquez last November.
Much like last November, the UFC event will be over before the boxing main events kicks off, and according to UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, FOX doesn't mind sharing the national spotlight with boxing's best.
"That's kind of FOX's deal," he recently said. "They do all the research; they're really smart guys. They like that fact that we're going to go on at the same night, but the window is different. Meaning, we'll be done before Floyd fights Cotto. And the last time that that happened was when Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez fought on the same night as Pacquaio and we peaked at over 9.9 or whatever million viewers (ed. note: the ratings actually peaked at 8.8 million viewers, a North American MMA record). The theory is that people are home. It's a great fight night; you're going to watch Pacquiao or whatever; you can turn on FOX, you can watch our fight; you'll have a great night.
"The reality is, not to piss any boxing guys off, but nobody watches those undercards anyway at the end of the day. So you can watch the UFC and switch over when it's done. But we do suffer from a press standpoint. He'll (Mayweather) hog the press."
Ironically, it appears as though boxing is starting to learn from its UFC counterparts, because familiar names like Shane Mosley, Canelo Alvarez and Carlos Quintana have been added to the Mayweather-Cotto undercard. Still, from a promotional standpoint, all the focus has been on the Mayweather-Cotto tilt.
Boxing purists have long argued that there is no connection between MMA and boxing fans, however, Fertitta, a long-time boxing fan himself, thinks otherwise.
"I think that they are pretty similar," he said. "I think if you like boxing, for the most part, you like mixed martial arts. I think that there is a bit of an age difference in the demographic, I think boxing generally skews older, but my personal belief, I think HBO always comes out and says, 'Oh, we did research. There's no correlation.' Really? That's interesting. When we have DirecTV and In Demand do research, they see a lot of correlation between who buys boxing and who buys the UFC. There's definitely a correlation there."
And that may be precisely why the UFC won't look to compete against Mayweather or Pacquiao on pay-per-view anytime soon, as they did three years ago when they aired UFC 103 on PPV on the same night as Mayweather vs. Marquez.
"Now, if you would ask me, I would never go head-to-head (with Mayweather or Pacquiao) in a pay-per-view. We tried that once and we got killed. But it's on free TV and people are already home."
Major boxing matches only garner national attention a few times a year when either Mayweather or Pacquaio fight. Of course, the fight everyone wants to see is Mayweather vs. Pacquaio, but Fertitta thinks the promoters involved are doing everything they can to not deliver that mega-fight for the fans.
"It's one of those things where they're fighting one or two times a year and people do care at the end of the day because they're all looking forward and hoping at one point they actually fight each other. Unfortunately for that sport, from a business standpoint based on the way it's structured, it makes more sense for guys like Mayweather and Mayweather Promotions and Bob Arum to keep milking the public over and over again because once they fight it's over, right? Unless they keep doing rematches. I mean, how many times are they going to resell Cotto and Mosley and all these guys? I think I bought that pay-per-view like three or four times, (and) it wasn't that good of a fight. Just get on with it. Make the fight. C'mon."
So while annual pay-per-view estimates suggest the UFC isn’t playing second fiddle to boxing anymore, on May 5, they’ll be content serving as the free appetizer to Mayweather's latest high-profile sparring match. Consider it one of the rare times the perpetual rivals compliment each other.