In Depth

Have Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey made UFC bigger than boxing?

Even after Fury v Klitschko and Mayweather v Pacquiao, 2015 still belongs to UFC

Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor recorded a stunning 13-second victory over Jose Aldo in Las Vegas on Saturday as UFC took another giant step into the mainstream sporting consciousness.

His win did not generate as many column inches as victories for British boxers Anthony Joshua and Chris Eubank Jr that same evening, but it made a huge impression on social media, where his thunderous knockout quickly went viral.

It has also prompted more questions about whether Dana White's cage-fighting circus is now the biggest thing in combat sports - overshadowing the increasingly disjointed world of boxing.

This year has seen the so-called fight of the century between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao and Tyson Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko to become world heavyweight champion, but both fights were considered disappointments and many believe the sweet science is losing its flavour.

On the other hand, UFC has delivered drama in spades.

Ronda Rousey's defeat to Holly Holm in November was a stunning upset and McGregor's win at the weekend was watched by a record pay-per-view audience.

UFC's absence from traditional media is curious, writes boxing author Donald McRae for The Guardian, as McGregor has become an "online phenomenon", he notes.

"You would not know it if you leafed through the sports pages of Britain's national newspapers on Monday," he says. "There was plenty of coverage of Joshua and Eubank – but barely a word in print about McGregor or the likelihood he will earn more money than any boxer in 2016."

McCrae notes that other sportsmen, even boxers, seem captivated by UFC and that boxing's greater history cannot insulate it from competition. "We don't fall for the grace and wonder of Lionel Messi or Dan Carter, Usain Bolt or Novak Djokovic, because of their historical predecessors. We just step back in amazement because they are so brilliant in the moment, in the here and now," he argues.

"If given a choice to interview McGregor or Fury again I'd opt for the UFC featherweight rather than boxing's new world heavyweight champion."

UFC is big business. McGregor's victory was the biggest sports story in Australia and New Zealand on Sunday morning reports the NZ Herald

"Is it bigger than boxing now? Does it matter more than boxing?" asks columnist Michael Guerin. "Of course it does. More people watch it than boxing." His colleague Tony Veitch agrees: "The reaction on my Facebook page has been crazy."

Even boxing magazine The Ring has jumped on the bandwagon, making Rousey the first non-boxer to ever grace its cover earlier this year.

McGregor certainly believes he has the box office appeal to eclipse Mayweather and Pacquiao, claiming his future bouts have the potential to match the showdown between the two boxers earlier this year.

Earlier this year, Irish website The42 reported that "MMA is nowhere near boxing in terms of TV audience or gate receipts" but also noted that in terms of pay-per-view subscriptions UFC was on the rise and was also a more popular online search term than boxing.

It also pointed out: "You're allowed to like both, you're even allowed dislike both, the point being they don't have to be compared.

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