In the fight game, the big names will always be a huge draw to pit two of the bigger characters together in what has aptly come to be known as a “super fight” or “money fight”. And in many regards it’s no surprise they are as successful as they are. However, for many fans, it has become somewhat of a problem as fighters are seemingly becoming more likely to hold out for that big payday and that huge career-defining fight. So, does that suggest that money fights are here to stay, and what problems does this cause moving forward?
Dropped divisions and abandoned titles
Perhaps the worst thing to come out of this big change to combat sports has been seen in the bigger organizations like the UFC but has been a common occurrence in others throughout the years too. The past couple of years, in particular, have seen big talent willing to give up their title in order to chase a bigger fighter in the higher weight classes, and ultimately leaving the existing division in a state of limbo whilst waiting to see if the current champ will return or if the title will need to be vacated. Whilst it is a successful venture for many as many mobile sports betting apps report huge numbers coming from these big fights, it’s clear that it’s not the best thing for the sport in the long term.
“Celebrity” fights add to the problem
As seen this past weekend with the Jake Paul fight against Ben Askren and the big YouTuber fights and the numbers they pull in throughout the past, there is a big future for these “celebrity” fights. It’s difficult to determine where the market will go as a whole, largely because it’s difficult to know who may or may not be interested and whether or not a big win or a big loss could deter viewership in the future. For now, it’s easy to see that some names are a much bigger draw. Whilst these big opportunities still exist too, it may deter some names away from the biggest fights of their career in order to chase the money instead, and it’s already been made clear that it can be the downfall of a fighter too, where Conor McGregor left his position on top of the UFC to chase a fight with Mayweather in boxing. Whilst it’s hard to imagine anyone would turn down the reported $100 million, as a fan of combat sports instead it causes its own problems.
Exposure leading to other opportunities too
It’s also important to note that money fights aren’t the only big distraction for fighters now either, as opportunities away from combat sports have become a big part of the equation. Movie and TV deals, budding careers in rapping or singing, or opportunities in other ventures like live-streaming need to be considered as part of the problem as many fighters who have made the transition haven’t been able to return either. Then when they do it’s usually for one of the previously mentioned big money fights.
One thing is for certain, however, at least for now, there’s no chance of money fights going anywhere. There are still discussions particularly recently with Jon Jones around how the money situation is currently evolving in big organizations like the UFC. Reports in the early days of fighters only walking away after paying all of their dues with less than $2,000 pushing the big names who have put in the blood and hard work over the years hoping for more. Some certainly criticized Jones for suggesting the $8-$10m figures was too low for a super fight, but as an undefeated champion (other than the DQ) for a decade it’s easy to see why he’s asking for more. With the risk of big talent potentially being lost because of this and previous examples already given showing why they leave too, it’s easy to see why the big fights hold such big appeal, even if it is a detriment to the sport as a whole.
For now, there’s little talk on any big moves in the same way that had been seen over the past three or four years as things start to settle down, but opportunities for the big money will certainly come back soon. The only talks at the moment are fighters on their way out seeking the big fights. So, will change come? Only time will ultimately tell.
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