The UFC plans on venturing into the world of boxing promotion and, according to Gareth A. Davies of The Telegraph, the mixed martial arts giant is targeting heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua with the hopes of signing him to a multi-fight contract that could pay upwards of $500 million.
Davies reported earlier this week that UFC president Dana White plans on flying to Wales next weekend to watch Joshua fight Joseph Parker at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on March 31 and, while he’s overseas, White hopes to talk business with Joshua and his representation.
The UFC, which has applied for a boxing licence in Nevada, had no comment when contacted by Sportsnet.
White first hinted that the UFC could branch off into boxing promotion ahead of last summer’s blockbuster boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor when he debuted a “Zuffa Boxing” shirt during the Toronto leg of the MayMac World Tour.
White, at the time, would not go into details on the story behind the shirt or whether “Zuffa Boxing” was something fans could anticipate becoming a reality. Zuffa, LLC had been the UFC’s parent company until it was sold to WME-IMG in July 2016 for more than $4 billion.
White told The Jim Rome Podcast this past October that he was confident the UFC could promote the sport of boxing better than those currently doing it.
“I just know how good we are at what we do, and I know we’re better than pretty much everybody else out there,” White told Rome. “I think that the guys who are involved in boxing, the fighters, would enjoy being under this umbrella and fighting for us, and yeah, I do think we could do it better than everybody else does. So what the hell, why not give it a shot?”
White is a massive fan of Joshua’s and described him last year as “the most marketable guy in world boxing.” It’s not a surprising statement either considering Joshua is well on his way to establishing himself as an all-time great in boxing’s most lauded division.
Joshua won an Olympic gold medal in front of the home crowd at London 2012 and since turning pro in 2013 he is 20-0 with all of his victories coming via knockout or technical knockout.
The Englishman is a fight promoter’s dream. The 28-year-old, in addition to his incredible skill and power inside the squared circle, is well respected outside the ring and has a proven track record of selling out massive stadiums.
Joshua’s two most recent fights have averaged more than 80,000 spectators while also being pay-per-view successes. He beat Wladimir Klitschko in an instant classic in front of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium in London to win vacant WBA and IBO titles in April then stopped of Carlos Takam in front of 78,000 at Principality Stadium in October.
Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s Matchroom Boxing promoter, whom Joshua remains under contract with, said during a Wednesday conference call that he’s willing to working with White and the UFC.
Joshua recently told Business Insider he’d be open to giving MMA a shot one day, and specifically mentioned he thought matchups with former UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones and heavyweight knockout artist Francis Ngannou would be “good scraps” and that “a fight is a fight at the end of the day.”
However, if Joshua were to accept an offer from the UFC, the odds of him competing in MMA would be slim. Instead, it’s far more likely Joshua would box under the aforementioned “Zuffa Boxing” banner while still working alongside Hearn.
“Listen, I’m riding with Eddie. I’ve been riding with Eddie. He’s backed me from the get-go, and then the second thing, I’m a boxer, I’m not into the UFC, so I don’t know what their plans are,” Joshua said on the conference call. “I’m interested [hearing what the UFC has to say] because we can all work together. Remember, mine and Eddie’s relationship is a really good working relationship and I’m sure Eddie has an interest in working with Dana White. If it’s good business, it makes sense.”
Added Joshua: “I’m not in the business, and I’m sure Eddie isn’t in it, to say, ‘Oh, Dana White, we’re not interested in working with you,’ when we don’t know what’s on the table. We’ll listen and 100 per cent, if it makes sense, we’re all ears, man. So, I’m happy that Dana’s coming into the game and hopefully, he can add some excitement, and we can progress forward and make some good money and make some good fights.”
If Joshua does wind up working with the UFC one day, don’t expect it to be in the immediate future. First he must get past 24-0 WBO champ Parker at the end of the month and, if he does, he’ll then set his sights on WBC champion Deontay Wilder. Wins over Parker and Wilder would see Joshua move to 22-0 and become the first undisputed heavyweight champ since Lennox Lewis was way back in 2000.