Ask any combat sports enthusiast, what does boxing have that MMA does not? And many will probably reply with ‘cross-promotion’ fights. IBF, WBA. WBC and WBO often let their best boxers compete with each other and even let go of titles when their fighter lose. Such a thing was rare in MMA but change seems visible on the horizon.
On new years eve of 2023, two MMA promotions Bellator and Rizin help a cross-promotion fighting event. 5 fighters representing their respective organizations went head to head against each other resulting in victory across the board for Bellator. Big fighting figures like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Manny Pacquiao were also in attendance.
Manny Pacquiao suddenly walking out to the RIZIN ring. 👀 pic.twitter.com/qmD7jPudGt
— Bloody Elbow (@BloodyElbow) December 31, 2022
How the event came to be!
Scott Coker of Bellator and Nobuyuki Sakakibara of Rizin have teamed up for many years now. They even cross-promoted each other’s fights at one point. Coker described the partnership in his post-fight interview,
“This is a relationship that started in 2004, 2005. It’s been many years of working together, It’s been a friendship and a relationship that has led to these fights taking place. It’s not always easy; there have been bumps along the way to get to this. I’m extremely happy about what we’ve been able to do with this event. We’re ready to go.”
What does this mean for future cross-promotion matchups?
UFC veteran and ‘Eagle FC owner Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov was present at the event to support his fighter Gadhzi Rabadanov. The former lightweight champ was shocked to see the magnitude of the event and the support from the fans. While UFC is touted as the biggest MMA promotion in the world, there are other audiences too.
Next, we can potentially see Khabib pit his fighters against other promotions in cross-promotion matchups. On the other hand, One Championship’s dual titleholder Christin Lee wants to fight UFC’s Islam Makhachev. But Dana doesn’t have fond memories of such fights as the last time he let Conor Mcgregor fight, Floyd Mayweather, in the boxing ring, it didn’t end well for him.
What promotions do you want to see pit their fighters against each other?