Here we go again.
The boxing vs. mixed martial arts (MMA) debates will likely never end, with our without scheduling issues like this, but the fact that major events will once again occur on the very same night later this year will only add fuel to the already blazing fire.
According to the LA Times (via Bad Left Hook), boxing superstar Manny Pacquio will make his return to the ring on Dec. 8, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada, most likely at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. His opponent, currently undecided, has come down to a choice of either a fourth fight against Juan Manuel Marquez or a rematch against Timothy Bradley.
Also booked on that date is the UFC on Fox 5: "Henderson vs. Diaz" card scheduled for the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington. That show will feature a stacked card headlined by a lightweight championship fight pitting current titleholder Ben Henderson against number one contender Nate Diaz, a man who earned that slot thanks to a win over Jim Miller at UFC on Fox 3.
Maximum exposure and all that.
This creates an interesting scenario and a couple of questions that will be answered by the time the smoke settles.
UFC President Dana White has been keen on throwing on his promotional hat to act as though a big boxing fight happening on the same night as a UFC event is a good thing. After all, why not watch four free fights on FOX before heading over to pay-per-view (PPV) to catch "Pacman" throwing down?
Then again, he's not above using it as a crutch when the ratings prove less than desirable.
That's what makes this particular showdown so fascinating. Pacquiao is coming off an extremely controversial decision loss that may or may not have affected his drawing power. Losses are perceived differently in boxing but the general consensus among anyone with two eyeballs that work properly was that the Filipino fighting machine was jobbed out.
The loss might hurt him but the way he lost might actually cancel that out, or even provide a boost.
Meanwhile, the UFC is trying to put its best foot forward by offering up a title fight on free TV, something it hasn't done since the first UFC on Fox event in November of last year. Of course, that was a heavyweight championship showdown while this one will feature about 100 pounds less beef, but a belt will be up for grabs.
The hope, of course, is that in doing so, the gradual decline in ratings since that first show will come to an end and the event will receive a boost in viewership. The X-factor here could be how heavily FOX promotes the event throughout football season, which is just about to kick off next weekend.
There have been reports of unhappiness on all sides with the lower than expected ratings for shows featuring unrecognizable names to casual viewers.
The rubber meets the road on Dec. 8 and if the UFC struggles to score greater than average viewership, especially if Pacquiao hits a home run later in the night on PPV, the fallout should be most interesting.