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Teddy Atlas: UFC Is 'Not a Pimple on the Ass of Boxing'

Over at Boxing FanHouse, I have an interview with longtime trainer and ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas. We mostly discussed the current state of boxing and the upcoming Vitali Klitschko-Juan Carlos Gomez fight, which will mark the first time a heavyweight title fight is shown live on ESPN.

But I also asked Atlas one question about mixed martial arts, because I'm always interested in hearing about how the boxing establishment feels about MMA.

The most incendiary comment from Atlas was this:
The reality is, when you see a big fight, whether it's De La Hoya-Pacquiao or De La Hoya-Mayweather, or whatever, you realize -- and I'm not knocking mixed martial arts, I think that sport's good and the participants are tough guys -- but Ultimate Fighting's not a pimple on the ass of boxing.
Although I'm sure a lot of MMA fans won't appreciate the "pimple on the ass" phrasing, the point Atlas was trying to make was that the biggest boxing matches, like Oscar De La Hoya taking on Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, are bigger draws than the biggest MMA fights. That is undeniably true: Both of De La Hoya's big fights in the last couple years generated more pay-per-view buys, bigger live gates and more media coverage than any MMA fight ever has.

However, I think the UFC is closer to overtaking boxing on that score than Atlas realizes. I think there's a very good chance that 2009 will be the first year ever when the biggest UFC pay-per-view show will out-draw the biggest boxing pay-per-view show, at least among North American audiences. The most lucrative boxing match of 2009 is probably going to be the May fight between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the UFC has two or three shows in 2009 that out-draw Pacquiao-Hatton.

But while I don't completely agree with Atlas on this issue, I think his overall comments, about the way the UFC is better at marketing than boxing is, and about how boxing has become a sport that revolves around one big fight a year whereas the UFC has a lot of big fights, are worth consideration for fans of both sports.