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UFC 121 Preview: Pacquiao/Margarito's Effect on UFC's Hispanic Push

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As an avid fan of boxing, it's impossible not to feel the nearing presence of the biggest fight of 2010's second half: Manny Pacquiao's upcoming bout with discraced former welterweight titleist Antonio Margarito. I noticed that this fight is on November 13, just three weeks after this weekend's Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez pay-per-view. Why is that significant? Well, this weekend's heavyweight title bout is the UFC's first concerted effort toward tapping the HIspanic fight fan demographic, yet it comes less than a month before the highest profile fight involving a Mexican fighter since Jaun Manuel Marquez challenged Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September 2009.

Despite Margarito's infamy (stemming from the discovery of loaded gloves on the night of his fight with Shane Mosley last year), the "Tijuana Tornado" is still largely popular among what is perhaps boxing's most rabid fanbase. Cain Velasquez, poster boy for the UFC's push into Hispanic (re: Mexican) markets, barely registers a blip on the radar of the current Hispanic demographic. With that in mind, I asked Scott Christ of the SBNation's excellent boxing affiliate Bad Left Hook if he thought the proximity of these two fights put the UFC's efforts in vain.

He opined: 

I don't think UFC's attempt to target the Hispanic market is ill-timed at all, though. I don't think you can ever pick a bad time to try and market a fight product to the Hispanic market, to be honest. This time might not get a "max" amount of interest in the UFC, but you're never going to hurt yourself trying to get a proven loyal fanbase to become more interested in your product...

The Mexican and Mexican-American audience is probably right there with older men as the best boxing audience left in the U.S., maybe the best. The two most visible and frequent sponsors in boxing that I can think of are Tecate and Tequila Cazadores. And Arum isn't the only one who markets heavily toward the Hispanic audience. Golden Boy does the same. Oscar de la Hoya, of course, knows first-hand how important that audience is.

Obviously I think both of these fights are good enough to have sold well without specifically targeting anyone. Lesnar-Velazquez is a huge fight, Pacquiao-Margarito is a really big fight, too. Truth be told, if either fight loses anything from the other happening within a few weeks, it's going to be the boxing fight. But that won't come from the demographic in question. UFC may well see a slight uptick in that market for this fight, but there's still a lot of work to do to establish that loyalty. They can tap that market, though, and I assume within a couple of years you're going to see more and more Mexican fighters in MMA, and in turn that will mean more and more of the Mexican audience watching the fights.

So, while the likelihood of Pacquiao/Margarito denting the business of Lesnar/Velasquez is small, it's still improbable that Hispanic fight fans will have their eye more toward the MMA fight than the clash in Cowboys Stadium. My own opinion on the matter is that fans (such as myself) who are strapped for cash these days will opt for their usual choice, meaning the Hispanic boxing fans the UFC is targeting will defer their money to the Pacquaio/Margarito fight if they must choose between the two. As Christ adroitly points out, though, in the coming years we will certainly see the Hispanic MMA market blossom, even if this weekend isn't the "Moon Shot", so to speak.