A fighter’s career can change direction in an instance. This week, for example, Josh Thomson migrated from the inner circle of top title contenders at 155 pounds to the fringes of active competition with the tally of a single scorecard.

In MMA, where sudden change is the only constant, a rare long-term narrative has been Anderson Silva’s vocal desire to test the waters outside of the sport. The former pound-for-pound kingpin has expressed his intent to face Roy Jones Jr. in boxing’s squared circle.

It is a news item that UFC President Dana White has actively avoided on several occasions, yet Silva’s camp is always quick to stoke the embers of rumor and gossip, giving fire to the story once more.

Silva is on the shelf for now, recuperating from the compound leg break he sustained at the hands (or right shin) of Chris Weidman. After six years in the spotlight and an extensive global media tour before his last fight, one might have thought that Silva would embrace a somewhat quiet moment of privacy throughout his recovery. Instead, the former UFC middleweight champion has openly expressed his desire to continue fighting.

With the UFC unable to book Silva for any definitive dates in the Octagon, speculation mounts over Silva’s temptation by the sweet science. Will the UFC simply dismiss this conjecture? Or beneath the exterior of this scenario, is there a complex array of selling points to a Silva-Jones Jr. boxing bout that could appeal to all parties involved.

By examining the benefits of this superfight for the UFC, we can identify the rationale for such an event taking place.

The Intrigue of a Dual-Show Format

A Silva-Jones Jr. card is an opportunity to test the dual-event format using MMA and boxing bouts. It is a rare entity because sports are typically so different from one another. In this case, however, boxing is a valuable component of MMA that fighters including Silva, the Diaz brothers and Gilbert Melendez have embraced in some of history’s most exciting fights.

In Far Eastern culture, particularly Japan, the crossover event has been well-received by each sport’s fan base and has attracted large audiences. Alternate MMA, kickboxing and even professional wrestling bouts became huge spectacles in crossover events. Pride, K1, Dream, NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling) and IGF (Inoki Genome Federation) mixed shows offered variety and a unique tempo to the night. In the one-off event of Silva-Jones Jr., combining boxing and MMA bouts on a single card would be less outlandish than the crossover events in Japan, while still retaining the credibility of legitimate sport.

This format would be a novelty of great intrigue among the recent boom of scheduled MMA content across the world. Offering something different is not always a bad thing.

The Security of MMA’s Identity

Mixed martial arts was newcomer to the sporting world only 20 years ago. As such, there was an inherent concern among MMA promotions to establish the sport’s own identity and distinguish it from other combat sports.

In 2014, we as fans of MMA are treated to access across a wide variety of channels. Pay-per-view, network television, internet streaming and digital subscription networks offer content on home and mobile platforms. Investment from the Abu Dhabi-owned Flash Entertainment, broadcast giant Viacom and entrepreneurial billionaire Mark Cuban in the sport conveys its potential among savvy business minds.

Through time, exposure and regulation, MMA is no longer condemned as an ill-conceived combat sport. On the contrary, its competitors are widely regarded as the most gracious and legitimate athletes outside of the Olympics.

Nowadays, the UFC is one of the strongest brands in sport, let alone MMA. Showing no concern in promoting a boxing bout would be a testament to that.

The Catchment of the Boxing Audience

Silva-Jones Jr. would provide the UFC and MMA a very unique audience expansion opportunity. The fight, by merit of its rules and participants, would invite a high number of loyal boxing fans into MMA exposure.

To these viewers, the fight and its promotion could acquire a group of fans with a track record of investing in combat sports viewing and merchandise. Using a high-profile figure in Silva, arguably the most gifted striker in MMA, with accuracy and reflexes that sometimes defy belief (like the Forrest Griffin exhibition), the UFC appeals to the preferences of the loyal boxing fan who might continue their interest in MMA personalities and events, embracing the sport’s striking element.

Just as there is an art to boxing, there is an art to MMA striking. Embracing kicks and takedown defense is part of the game. These nuances would not be lost on the devout boxing viewer.

The Fight’s Outcome

This match-up does not need the bad blood James Toney brought to the Octagon to be a promotional draw. The pure competitive curiosity of seeing two combat-sport icons clash is an accomplished selling point in itself.

There are several ways to interpret the outcome of this fight. Bragging rights do not carry across both sports because of their different rules and considerations.

If Silva were to be unsuccessful, it’s because he lost to one the greatest boxers of all time, an Olympic silver medalist once named “Fighter of the Decade.” A good performance would be highly commended by anyone with a knowledge of boxing or MMA.

If Silva were victorious, his success would immediately lend credibility to MMA striking, particularly its kickboxing, Muay Thai and taekwondo disciplines, adding another feather to MMA’s promotional cap.

“The Spider’s” Recovery

Silva’s open flirtation with a high-profile boxing bout currently emanates from the sidelines. “The Spider” is in the early days of his recovery, and questions remain over his fighting future.

Taking the severity of his injury into account, a boxing bout would be a fine stepping stone on Silva’s road back to the Octagon, if the 38-year-old is looking to make one more run at UFC gold. Naturally, there will be concern over the strength of Silva’s left leg, and a meeting with Jones Jr. will test the martial artist’s agility without the risk of re-injury by leg kicks, takedowns or submissions.

Competitive boxing is not a completely alien concept to Silva either. He has competed in the sport before.

The Relative Ease of Promotional Logistics

Silva is currently signed to an exclusive deal with the UFC. Consequently, it is important to look at the business incentives behind temporarily suspending this agreement or the UFC choosing to promote a boxing bout.

Compared to the problems the UFC has encountered when trying to sign figures like M-1 Global Management’s Fedor Emelianenko, negotiations with Jones Jr. could prove smoother.

Jones Jr. is a majority owner of his own promotional company, Square Ring Promotions. With direct communication between negotiating parties, there is no obligation to appease a major third-party interest, which could offer more incentive.

As for the platform of such an event, pay-per-view is the most viable option for financial gain. With the pay-per-view providers commanding a sizeable percentage of total revenue—roughly half—the clamor for the remaining 50 percent of earnings could be just as competitive as the fight itself. Perhaps the UFC’s stellar production value would provide a valuable bargaining tool for the MMA organization, while alleviating responsibility on Jones Jr’s side.

Of course, if the UFC embraces the idea of using Silva-Jones Jr. to attract as many eyes as possible without the need for a premium platform, Fox Sports 1 offers a cable and satellite channel with which the UFC already has an excellent working relationship. It is also a network that has attracted high-profile boxing names like Victor Ortiz, who fights on FS1 this weekend.

With these variables in mind, it is important to consider the other, less tangible, gains listed above that might coerce UFC executives into making a U-turn on a one-off foray into boxing.

The Verdict

Silva’s wish to box Jones Jr. provides the UFC a chance to promote unique content while confiding in the strength of its own brand. Ultimately, it’s hard to determine if a fight is feasible until solid numbers are brought to the negotiating table. At the very least, though, there’s no harm in the UFC taking a seat at that table.

About The Author

Aidan O'Connor
Staff Writer

A native of Maidstone, England, Aidan has been covering MMA in a news or feature capacity since 2010. In addition to writing for The MMA Corner, Aidan also runs the MMAmusing Twitter account and enjoys the sport as an avid enthusiast. A graduate in English and American Studies, he currently works in marketing and public relations.

  • Diego

    probably not the best idea for Silva, he is the best MMA fighter of all time but is just a good boxer, boxing is only one of many martial arts, MMA is several martial arts where Silva is tremendous in many and at worst only good in others, he would be facing one of the best ever in a single martial art that he doesnt specialize in, a fight vs GSP in both of their 1st fights back would be awesome, one can dream …

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