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Why the tired MMA vs. boxing debate won’t go away

By on September 5, 2017

may macAlthough most of us realized long ago that even someone as talented as Conor McGregor would have trouble in a pure boxing match, there were still plenty of people who bought into the hype that McGregor vs. Mayweather was somehow going to “settle” some sort of rivalry between boxing and MMA.

Yet here we are, two weeks after and the argument rages on. Every social media post by McGregor or Twitter conversation about the fight becomes a battleground for boxing and MMA fans to rant and rave on, and even famous fighters and personalities are getting into the mix. Most recently, Joe Rogan pointed out the obvious, stating that current UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway would destroy retired boxer Paulie Malignaggi in an MMA fight, which Holloway confirmed in a rather silly tweet.

Why all the dick-slinging?

Well, because these are fighters, after all. It’s only obvious to anyone with any martial arts experience or even time spent watching the sport that one-dimensional fighters don’t do well in MMA. At least, not anymore. So it doesn’t matter how good someone like Mayweather’s boxing is, because in an MMA fight he would be taken down or picked apart at range with kicks that he wouldn’t know how to defend.

Similarly, most MMA fans who aren’t caught up in the silly bravado of it all will admit that MMA fighters wouldn’t beat top boxers in a pure boxing match. Sure, MMA fighters train boxing, but they do it as part of a complete package. The stances are different, the cardio is different, and the combinations are different. The rules are different – no getting saved from the tiring clinch in MMA – and you can’t just go between the two and expect to be elite in both.

But it’s just not natural for someone who’s wired to be a professional boxer to admit, “Hey, Conor McGregor could whoop my ass in a cage.” Boxing may have a reputation as the classier of the two sports, but these are still guys that punch each other for a living. They have egos. And it’s the same way with McGregor and company. They may know that they’re at a huge disadvantage when fighting a specialist in a sport that they only spend a couple of hours a week on, but you can’t be a top-notch MMA fighter and admit that another man would whoop your ass under any circumstances. It’s not how they’re wired.

The strange thing is that there’s another sport where this isn’t an issue, and that’s sport grappling (or just plain old Brazilian jiu-jitsu, if you prefer). You don’t see the world’s top grapplers claiming that they could step in a cage with barely any additional training and win world titles. Former grappling standouts like Demian Maia and Jacare Souza have taken years to round out their skill sets, after all.

The problem is that while MMA and BJJ don’t compete for money, MMA and boxing do. MMA fans have long cracked that boxing is a dying sport and “boring,” while boxing loyalists have often extended little respect to MMA, alternately treating it like a little brother that shouldn’t be taken seriously or claiming it’s a brutal sport that lacks boxing’s precision.

Amid that backdrop, there would seem to be a lot at stake in the argument. But there’s not. At least, not really. Because anyone in their right mind knows that McGregor rarely ever wins that boxing match and Mayweather’s chances in a cage would be even worse. There’s also little doubt that a 20-year-old Mayweather couldn’t have been molded into a great MMA fighter, or that a young McGregor couldn’t have been a standout boxer if he chose that path.

And hey, those guys both got rich (or in Mayweather’s case, richer). They’re not arguing. It’s those of us that buy into all the hype, that bought into Mayweather-McGregor, that are keeping this going. But the truth is, boxing is a part of MMA. There’s no point in trying to prove supremacy between the two. And besides, if we keep bickering like this, we may get even more MMA fighters in the boxing ring, which I don’t think any of us need to see anytime soon. Let’s keep our fighters where they do their best work. If a boxer wants to come over, let them come. We’ll get the same tired debate, but a much more pleasing result.

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