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Don King thinks the UFC is in decline

I know what the comments are going to say, “Who the hell cares what Don King says?”

While I don’t put much stock in a 73-year old boxing promoter who is a convicted criminal that has been sued by a lot of his fighters and is promoting a match between Roy Jones Jr. and Felix Trinidad that is five years too late, it still irks me when he says crap like this:

”I love the UFC,” King said. ”Dana White and the Fertitta brothers [Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and White own the UFC] have done a marvelous job, but their decline lately has been precipitous.

”If they don’t find a new way to stimulate interest, boxing will be all alone on top again.”

Those comments appear in today’s online edition of the Chicago Sun-Times and were preceded by a quote in which King attempted to denegrade Saturday’s UFC 80 card in New Castle:

”They have a mediocre fight in London that will be shown on a delayed basis,” he said. ”I have no problem with that.”

I can’t say that I blame King for not being worried about UFC 80. I think the so-called “crossover” audience between boxing and MMA has been exaggerated by many and there will be a lot of casual MMA fans who won’t be watching UFC 80 tomorrow afternoon during the live broadcast at 3 p.m. ET or the tape delayed showing at night. However, I’m not so sure those casual fans will be paying to see Trinidad vs. Jones, either.

That being said, King is talking out of his butt when he claims the UFC is experiencing a “precipitous” decline. If the UFC really is in decline, then boxing should be so lucky to have a decline like the one the UFC experiencing.

While I disagree with those who claim boxing is dead, it’s popularity in the United States has decreased. Boxing’s popularity is as strong as ever when it comes to certain demographics but for the most part its fanbase is aging and the sport itself is not doing a good job of luring the next generation of fans.

The reality is that King knows better. He likely said what he said to get a reaction and get some publicity for tomorrow’s card in New York, which from what I hear is not selling well. Well, if this column is any indication, King’s transparent strategy has worked to some degree.

Back in the day when I was a big boxing fan, Jones and Trinidad were two of my favorite fighters. Truth be told, I’m still interested in tomorrow’s fight between the two even though they are both past their peak. That being said, I’ll be damned if I am going to pony up $50 for it. It’s a fight that belongs on HBO or Showtime, not PPV.

UFC vice president of regulatory affairs, Marc Ratner, who is no stranger to King from his days with the Nevada State Athletic Commission pretty much feels the same way I do:

”Five or six years ago, Tito vs. Roy was a fight I couldn’t wait for. I’m interested to see which guy has the most left. I’ll watch it on video when I get home [from Great Britain].”

And while I am underwhelmed by UFC 80’s undercard, it still has a lot more to offer than the undercard for Trinidad vs. Jones, with Andrew “Groin Shot” Golotta the featured attraction.

Only in America? No thanks, I’ll take the fight card Penn vs. Stevenson in the UK over boxing any day of the week.