The martial arts world is littered with stories of fighters transitioning from one discipline to another. Historically, the majority of examples have featured those from what have been seen as the “lesser” disciplines seeking to enter the big time as boxers.
A case in point is the recent bout between Ireland’s Conor McGregor and ageing pro boxer Floyd Maywether. An estimated 50 million viewers tuned in to watch what was, in the end, an uninspiring spectacle that could never live up to the hype created by two fighters who are never shy when it comes to self promotion.
A new dynamic
However, behind the glitz and the chest thumping of characters like McGregor and Mayweather, a new dynamic is quietly evolving, and it is one that could spell a major change in the world of MMA.
The UFC has grown in momentum over the past year or so, causing MMA to evolve from a fringe sport to mainstream entertainment, thanks to healthy TV coverage and shrewd promotion. The most recent event in London sold out the 20,000 capacity O2 arena within minutes of tickets going on sale. As such, there is a distinct pattern emerging of top quality fighters from a boxing background deciding that their future lies in MMA.
Sponsorship Deal for Barnett
A case in point is rising star Tim Barnett. The 27 year old Liverpudlian has a background in boxing, but decided in early 2016 to pursue a career as a MMA fighter. He has never looked back, beating all comers and rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the best upcomers in Europe.
The commercial potential of fighters like Barnett has not gone unnoticed. He recently hit the headlines for agreeing one of the biggest sponsorship deals the sport has seen with online giant Fruity King Mobile Casino. The partnership is the first of its kind and demonstrates the growth of MMA into a serious sport with serious backers. You can read the full story on Fruity King’s website, but essentially, he will be wearing the Fruity King logo on his clothing for several years to come.
A growing tide?
Tim Barnett is just one example. There are several others from a boxing background who have the potential to succeed in MMA, and the growing profile of the sport is making it lucrative to do so.
Former welterweight champion Kermit Cintron is a tantalizing example. When Floyd Maywether first claimed, back in 2007, that any boxer could transition to MMA and beat an established fighter, UFC President Dana White invited him to take on then lightweight champion Sean Sherk. Maywether went quiet, but Cintron said he was willing to accept the challenge. The bout never took place, which is unfortunate as although Sherk would have been favourite, many feel that Cintron would have stood a genuine chance.
At 37, it is unlikely that we will ever see Cintron himself achieving MMA glory, but for the next generation, Tim Barnett is likely to be a pioneer in a succession of boxers joining the ranks of the UFC and finding fame and success.