By Gareth A Davies
The Daily Telegraph
Ricky Hatton believes boxing promoters need to pool resources and make the matchups which fans want to see after observing the rapid development of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, intimating that the UFC's production values for television are to be envied.
Hatton dismissed the the age-old argument that UFC is a threat to boxing, explaining: "We will always have our audience and they will always have their audience, but everywhere you go you are reading about it, and we have to raise the bar," he told me this week.
"People go for the entertainment value, and if the UFC are making it more entertaining, we need to watch that. They have a big marketing machine behind them. When I went to Las Vegas last week, and attended the World MMA Awards, I didn’t realize how
popular it was until I went to Vegas."
"It’s a big occasion, it was 5 star production. In a short space of time, the UFC has gone right up there and it’s impressive."
"The audience is in early for the event, they have the big screens in the arenas, and have videos telling the stories of the fighters before they come in, and the whole production value is very high."
Hatton taught UFC star Paul Sass some new moves this week, and then they went to the ground. What the former two-weight world champion didn't know was that the Liverpudlian holds the world record for winning the most consecutive mixed martial arts contests by submission.
In a mutually beneficial session, tried out some grappling techniques on the floor.
“It was really, really good and a lot of fun as well,” Sass said. “Ricky has taught me a few things I can take away and practice more.
“There’s some little things he showed me that hopefully I can put into my next fight and win by knockout. All my other wins have come from submissions except for one decision, so a knockout is what I need now.
“I got to show Ricky a couple of my moves as well. I showed him my triangle and arm bar and he picked them up really well.”
Sass, who is currently preparing to face Danny Castillo at the next UK UFC event to take place at Wembley Arena on February 16, was also impressed by the facilities at Hatton Health and Fitness in Hyde.
Hatton said: “Paul and the rest of the UFC are welcome in the gym any time they like. I feel very proud of some of the people we’ve had in the gym. We’ve had Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Robert Duran plus others and having the UFC in is an honour.”
Some people in boxing have been very critical of mixed martial arts in recent years, but Hatton says the sport has won him over and feels that a lot can be learned from watching it.
“I was always a fan of Michael Bisping but I wasn’t really into the UFC before,” he explained. “From watching Michael I got more and more interested in it and I’ve become very intrigued by it. Paul Sass told me he has more than 30 moves on the ground and that’s a real talent".
"What boxing can do is learn from what the UFC is doing. One thing that hinders fighters is not being able to get the fights they need as quickly as they need. I'd like to see boxing's promoters work more closely together. It would be for the good of the sport."