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UFC 103 versus Mayweather-Marquez

8/21/2009

If Carlos Arias of the OC Register is to believed -- and his sincere face leads me in no other direction -- the UFC will be arming itself against the competing Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez bout on Sept. 19 by televising one giant, two-hour commercial on Spike: a portion of UFC 103's undercard, commercial-free.

A few things to keep in mind: For one, some cable companies with only one premium pay channel outlet will have to choose between the two events, depriving some viewers of a choice.

Two: Boxing is about more than just the constantly visible teeth -- via flapping lips -- of Mayweather. If the UFC happens to grab more pay customers that night, it will be a victory against Floyd's current drawing power, not boxing's. Especially in a turgid bout against Marquez that no one really asked for.

And three: HBO has pre-blab hype of its own to circuit with a four-part "24/7" countdown series spread out over the next several weeks. And Mayweather can play to a camera crew like kittens play with yarn.

It was Mayweather's team who invited the competition by booking the 9/19 date -- which the UFC had already staked out -- for a fight originally scheduled for the summer. And the inevitable media angle of pitting the two sports against one another will only raise the visibility of both.

But diplomacy is boring, right? Who wins? Mayweather owns a chunk of the biggest pay-per-view spectacle of all time when he fought Oscar De La Hoya in front of 2.4 million households in 2007 -- but Marquez is no De La Hoya and UFC 103 headliners Rich Franklin and Vitor Belfort are no Brock Lesnar.

The UFC is the more electric product right now, though, with utterly unprecedented exposure thanks to two huge summer events and a highly profitable video game. Between the live Spike barker show and the live UFC Fight Night card and the Kimbo Slice-infused "Ultimate Fighter" premiere just three days prior, they'll be getting tremendous press leading in.

UFC via brand awareness. But it'll be close enough that the rivalry between the two combat sports -- real or imagined -- won't be going away anytime soon.