Boxing Still Has a Big Lesson to Learn From MMA and the UFC

Boxing is a very old sport, and it has, by and large, paved the way for the UFC. That said, things are changing, and in many ways, the UFC is ahead of boxing. This is especially true when it comes to women and how both sports treat their female fighters. It is an issue that was brilliantly discussed in a recent article from The Athletic.

The state of women’s boxing

RELATED: This Crazy UFC Fight Would Never Happen Today

In short, women’s boxing simply isn’t doing as well as women’s MMA is, and it’s not even close. Like DAZN reported, Claressa Shields is probably the most famous female boxer in the world right now, and she readily aired her grievances about the boxing world.

Despite being a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the champ in three weight classes, Shields said that she has never even been on a pay-per-view card yet.

Pay-per-view is the main way that boxing and the UFC makes money, and for the most popular fighters, they’ll even get a cut of the pay-per-view sales. This simply means that, being on a pay-per-view event will give fighters either exposure, money, or both. 

Unsurprisingly, in Shields’ case, not being on a pay-per-view has meant that her paychecks have been pretty small as far as boxing salaries go. For example, the Washington Post reported that, in her fight against Ivana Habazin, Shields only earned a guaranteed $300,000. 

What MMA and the UFC is doing differently

Megan Anderson celebrating a UFC win
Megan Anderson celebrates her win over Zarah Fairn | Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Unlike the boxing world, however, the UFC and other MMA organizations aren’t shy about having women on pay-per-views. The UFC in particular has had many women headline pay-per-view events, too, and, like DAZN said, those events typically do pretty well. The obvious example of this is Ronda Rousey and her meteoric rise in the UFC. 

Rousey dominated women in the 135-pound bantamweight division, and her dominance, as well as the UFC’s marketing, has made her famous. She headlined massive pay-per-view events in sold-out arenas, and in turn, she’s made millions from her fights. Rousey isn’t the exception, either. The UFC has done similarly well with the other women in its roster, such as Amanda Nunes, Cris Cyborg, and Valentina Shevchenko. 

This equal treatment of women isn’t isolated to the UFC, either. Other MMA organizations, such as Rizin and ONE FC, often feature their female fighters at events. This seems to be a simple truth in the MMA world, and like Shields said, “We don’t have that in woman’s boxing.” 

Why boxing needs to learn this lesson, now

RELATED: Who Will Become the UFC’s First Mom Champ

It should go without saying that treating women equally is a good idea. That said, the UFC isn’t perfect in this regard, as, just like in other industries, the UFC generally pays its female fighters less than what it pays its men. But, like in other sports, popularity matters, too. If a sport isn’t popular enough, then there simply isn’t enough money to go around to pay people what they’re worth. 

But boxing is still a popular sport, and like the UFC showed, women can be popular too. The UFC simply was willing to invest in the women in its roster, and that’s what allowed stars like Rousey and Nunes to exist. 

That said, the boxing world is complicated, and there’s no single major boxing organization but rather, multiple big ones. However, none of those promotions have seemingly invested in stars like Shields, and that simply means that they’re throwing away potential stars. 

This is partially why DAZN reported that Shields is willing to fight on the pay-per-view of any major boxing star. She doesn’t really care who headlines it, she just wants to get women’s boxing more exposure than it’s getting right now. Shields hopes that, by doing this, she will not only bring more eyes to women’s boxing, but she will also open up opportunities for her and other boxers in the future.