Print and Go Back ESPN.com: MMA [Print without images]

Monday, March 15, 2010
The 5 Percenters


Old news, but what can I say? I'm slow.

In hyping a spring fight between Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley, Mark Taffet, HBO's senior vice president of sports operation and pay-per-view, indicated to media that there was only a "5 percent overlap" between boxing and MMA fans.

At the same news conference, Mayweather implied the UFC could be exaggerating their buy rates. "The pay-per-view numbers we're doing, we're really doing," he said. "We're not making up fake numbers."

Clearly, we do not seek out the opinion of Mayweather when it comes to things he takes an adversarial position against. (He has referred to the sport as something "for beer drinkers," as if boxing's faithful are Amish.) If the UFC were intent on fudging numbers, you would assume they would disseminate information more flattering than the rumored 215,000-household rate for UFC 110 in February. But there is also no auditing system for either the information they might leak or the cable industry "insiders" that pass estimates to media. No Nielsen system exists for pay-per-view.

Back to Taffet's point. He seems satisfied with the idea there may be so little crossover between the two combat sports, but that's puzzling. MMA fans are feeding highly rated basic cable programs, merchandising sales, gate and pay-per view-numbers. Why would boxing be content to think 95 percent of those freely spending fight fans aren't interested in HBO's product?

It's money left on the table. Then again, Mayweather would know all about that.