Today the UFC should be talking up its big April 7 UFC 223 pay-per-view event after holding a major press conference yesterday in Brooklyn, N.Y. to tout the fight card. Instead, most mixed martial arts fans are conversing about the felony actions of UFC superstar Conor McGregor surrounding an alleged attack on a bus after the conference.
Boxing fans were anticipating the big Cinco de Mayo rematch between middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin up until this past Tuesday, when Alvarez withdrew from the fight after facing an extension of his current suspension for failing two drug tests.
Both incidents have given the combat sports category an unexpected and unwanted black eye just as both boxing and the UFC were gearing up for what is still hoped to be a strong year for the pay-per-view fight category.
The UFC, in the midst of celebrating its 25th anniversary, used yesterday’s press conference in Brooklyn as a spring board to tout its current lineup of superstars -- as well as its upcoming schedule of high-profile PPV events -- led by Saturday’s UFC 223 show at Brooklyn's Barclay Center. The event was to feature top UFC fighters as Michael Chiesa, Ray Borg and Artem Lobov.
Instead, both Chiesa and Borg have been forced from the event due to injuries suffered when a group allegedly led by McGregor and Lobov "vandalized the vehicle that contained a number of athletes competing at the event taking place this weekend," according to the UFC.
Lobov was dropped from the event after the incident, according to the organization. McGregor --arguably the UFC's most popular star, and whose August 2017 boxing match with Floyd Mayweather drew a near record 4.3 million PPV buys -- was charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief, according to published reports.
UFC President Dana White took to the airways Friday morning to condemn McGregor’s behavior, saying on Friday’s ESPN’s Get Up! morning sports show that the incident is “embarrassing” for the UFC.
HBO and the PPV industry were hoping to build on the momentum from last September’s first Alvarez-Golovkin match – the controversial draw drew more than 1 million PPV buys and established Alvarez as boxing's biggest PPV boxing draw.
Instead, Alvarez’s two failed tests for performance enhancing drugs -- and the subsequent cancellation of the May 5 PPV fight card -- casts a pall on both Alvarez and boxing during a period in which the sport can ill afford to lose marquee events as it looks to build a new crop of potential PPV-appealing fighters.
Both the UFC and boxing will ultimately survive these unquestionably difficult setbacks, but that won't dilute the pain of the image gut-punch suffered by both sports in the short term.