Survey shows popularity of Boxing and UFC

May 11, 2013

The Sports Business Journal reported on an annual survey which tracked the habits of avid fans of boxing, MMA and professional wrestling.  The Scarborough survey polled more than 200,000 residents over the age of 18 in 77 of the country’s biggest markets to find out how avid fans are to their particular sport.

The survey determined that of the 48.4% of the U.S. male population, the UFC (74.6% of males polled) is most popular of the three sports among males with boxing a close second (72.4%) and then WWE (62.8%).  However, women (52.6% of the female population) preferred boxing over the UFC with the WWE third.

As one might expect, the UFC did well with ages 18-44 while boxing was more popular among 30-44 year olds.   WWE did the best with baby boomers 30-44 years old.  But, this does not jive with the polling numbers which state that 51.7% of those WWE fans polled have no children.


Most educated fans of the three sports?  Its the UFC with 48.5% (of the 55% of the average U.S. population) stated they attended college.  However, more boxing fans attended post-graduate school and/or received a post-graduate degree than both the UFC or WWE fans.


Spanish/Hispanics favor boxing over the WWE and the UFC.  African Americans favor the UFC the least over the three combat sports.

Boxing is big among Spanish and Hispanics due to the many boxing stars in the numerous divisions.  One need only see that the big PPVs each year occur Cinco de Mayo (May) weekend and Mexican Independence Day (September).

Household Incomes

18% (of the 20% of the average U.S. population) of UFC fans have household incomes between $100,000 and $249,000.  The bulk of its fans, 81% (of the average U.S. population), make between $25,000 and $34,999.


According to the Scarborough survey, 5.3% of the U.S. population indicated that they are avid fans of boxing.  5.1% are avid UFC fans while 3.7% are WWE fans.

Top 3 Markets for the UFC

1) Honolulu, Hawaii

2) Bakersfield, California,

3) El Paso, Texas

Las Vegas ranked 9th for the UFC and 8th in Boxing.  El Paso also ranked second in Boxing markets.

Harlingen-McAllen, Texas ranked first as the top Boxing market and second in WWE’s top market. Little Rock, Arkansas ranked first as the WWE’s top market.

Payout Perspective:

The survey does not really have anything too surprising.  The UFC fan base is mainly comprised of the younger demographic while boxing skews to the older generation.  This can be attributed to the fact that many grew up with boxing on television.  One also may look to the fact that ethnicity plays a big role with boxing fans.  Boxing fans are fans of certain fighters because of their ethnicity.  One can look to Manny Pacquiao as a recent example of nation pride from many Filipinos.  Juan Manuel Marquez and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. are examples of Mexican fighters that have drawn interest due in part to their heritage.

As for markets, its interesting that Honolulu, Hawaii is the top UFC market among markets polled.  This has to be attributed to the big following of BJ Penn.  Also,Texas appears to be a focal point for Fight Sports as El Paso and Harlingen-McAllen are at the top of the list when it comes to avid fans of the sports.

One of the more interesting takeaways is that Boxing and the UFC are still neck and neck in fan popularity.  Yes, its not a competition between the two but its interesting to note that boxing and the UFC both had 19 telecasts over 1 million viewers in 2012.  Boxing had 2 network telecasts over the 1 million mark while all 4 of the UFC on Fox network events went over 1 million viewers.

16 Responses to “Survey shows popularity of Boxing and UFC”

  1. adder on May 11th, 2013 11:57 PM

    on the ethnicity question. it would be interesting to see which of the three white people prefer. I would strongly suspect it is the UFC and by quite a large margin.

  2. Lewis Atkinson on May 12th, 2013 1:01 AM

    I’m 35 years old and grew up watching boxing. Sadly for me the UFC is far better in my opinion simply because of the belt situation and the power the fighters have. Floyd Mayweather didn’t want to fight Manny pac, for me this shouldn’t be allowed. Is he the number 1 contender or not? If so then you need to fight him. In the UFC there are fewer belts and the best fighters have to fight one another, they actually want to fight one another!!

  3. BrainSmasher on May 12th, 2013 6:46 PM

    Who cares! There is more white people who like everything than black people. More white people listen to hip hop and rap than black people. That tends to be the case when there is 4-5 times more white people in the country.

  4. pureincognito on May 12th, 2013 9:01 PM

    Hawaii at #1 doesn’t surprise me. I first got into MMA when I was stationed there. They even cover the UFC on the news like they do football or baseball elsewhere. With the right card they could probably sell out Aloha Stadium (where the Pro Bowl is played).

  5. Tops of on May 13th, 2013 5:02 AM

    A lot of women I know don’t like the UFC because of the grappling aspect…it’s a big turn off for them.Every time they watch there’s always jokes being said about grappling ….and you can go to gyms and women prefer to take boxing lessons….than let’s say grappling….
    ….I’m surprised they’re neck to neck with boxing in the u.s. I thought UFC would be ahead way more than 2 percent…..and the u.s. is the Mecca of mma in the world and it only leads boxing by a couple of points…

    so on the global scale boxing is way more popular still…Mexico,Philippines,Latin countries and germany boxing is top sport competing with soccer or basketball….south Africa have regular boxing as well as Japan and south Korea
    Which I think all because boxing is an Olympic asport.

    The wwe has a niche market in every country . they travel a lot in other countries on a regular basis and maintained theyre solid niche….

    come to think of it outside the UFC there are no more popular promotions in other countries…onefc for example have been to the Philippines 1 time…legend fc in china are held in small venues…..

    The only big promotions are pride in Japan years ago or for kickboxing k1….

    I hope the sports journal surveys other countries as well

  6. michael on May 13th, 2013 5:47 AM

    this is not meant as a critique or sth. but in Germany people don’t watch boxing, we only watch the klitschko-fights… here, nobody knew about the last mayweather fight. even mayweather/delahoya for example aired at sth like 5am and was never really mentioned. soccer and formula1 are the big sports that a lot of people like to watch. still of course way more people here watch boxing rather than mma

  7. michael on May 13th, 2013 5:49 AM

    right – and 80/100 people might also know who Hulk Hogan is 🙂

  8. Sampson Simpson on May 13th, 2013 2:38 PM

    Actually a lot of people watch the middleweights in Germany. A lot of top contenders in that division.

  9. JetDjango on May 13th, 2013 4:43 PM

    You mma journalists need to quit carefully wording your articles to make MMA sound bigger.

    You failed to mention Scarborough sport research measured the total boxing fan base at 50 million in 2012. The total MMA fans was measure at 30 million in 2010.

    The avid fan base for boxing in this new study was 16 million while the avid fan base for MMA was 11 million. You carefully worded the article to mainly focus on the demos that make MMA look good. You fail to mention boxing is the much bigger sport over all.

    Also, you make it sound like boxing is only full of blacks, hispanics and old people. This is wrong. Yes boxing has a lead on these three as the study says but around 80% of the avid fan base was documented as being white. E.G the black fans in boxing are reported to be 4 million while MMA is 2 million.

    As for younger fans MMA only has 1 million more under 29’s than boxing. Boxing has 2.4 million fans under 29 while MMA has 3.3 million fans under 29.

    When you put everything in point form the way you do it casts a deceptive shadow over the actual figure. Why didn’t you just post up the chart for the study since it’s circulating the forums already? Just let people see it and make up their own minds.

    Scarborough sport research certainly made up their own mind. In the first paragraph of the report they said boxing is still the number 1 combat sport in the US.

  10. Tops of on May 13th, 2013 9:31 PM

    At least this article is worth talking about because it came from a reputable source like the sports business journal and based on a scientific survey…instead of debating on meltzer unofficial article or Dana whites hype machine……so if UFC is just 2 points of UFC in the u.s. than Dana’s global domination to replace soccer is sooooo far off….how about boxing is dead? Of 4 years back …

  11. Tops of on May 13th, 2013 9:36 PM

    2points over boxing I mean

  12. adder on May 13th, 2013 11:29 PM


    Dana’s global domination was always a joke and don’t forget he also claimed it would be bigger then the NFL in America. these statements were just good for media attention.

    when the UFC went from 0-60 in just a few years there was a tendency to go overboard in the appraisal of where it would end up.

    all the “boxing is dead” talk was imo also a nice way to appeal to the mma fans childish pro wresting fan mentality. UFC vs Boxing was not a rivalry that should have happened. but imo some within the UFC encouraged it because it appealed to the fans used to the WWE vs WCW, raw vs nitro, WCW vs NWO and other such BS that kind of fan was so used to.

  13. Sampson Simpson on May 14th, 2013 6:04 PM

    If boxing is dead, the UFC is decomposed carcass by comparison globally.

    Not much bigger than boxing in America and not even close to boxing internationally

  14. Dexter on August 29th, 2013 7:47 AM

    I find now that UFC is recycling their fighters… you cannot say boxing doesnt make their fights like UFC does… pac mayweather never happened. So will anderson silva vs jon jones or GSP vs silva.

  15. Andrea Kurucova on October 24th, 2013 9:01 AM


    my name is Andrea Kurucova and I am a student from Slovakia. I am writting you because I have really big request on you. I study sociology and I decided to write my final thesis about Mixed martial arts, specifically MMA like a profession. When I decided to write about this theme I didn´t know about any books, any surveys and any deeply informations. This idea came very naturally because two years ago I´ve was doing thai boxing and it was more and more interesting for me and I also saw inreasing interest mostly between girls and women. When I was working in one pub in TV running the show Fight Girls with Gina Carano and it takes me more and more. I have to saw all parts of this show and saw next videos. Also I´ve been taken notice that mostly people from my area do- or know about people who are doing martial arts. So I take this as challenge, because I know that this is very difficult theme for survying, mostly in my country (because of literature, just growing MMA, etc.). I already have a book: Fighting for Acceptance by David Mayeda and No Holds Barred by Clyde Gentry III and Fighting Scholars: Habitus and Ethnographies of Martial Arts and Combat Sports by R.S. Garcia, and some articles from websites. My really big reqest on you, could you recommend me some good studies or books or articles about professional fighters or professional athletes? Or some usefull informations, which I can use?

    Thank you very much

    Andrea Kurucova

  16. Jonathan Blanco on June 6th, 2015 2:05 AM

    Great study. No comment on your content, just semantics on one of your demographics. You repeatedly reference Spanish / Hispanics. Please realize that Spanish people are white and Europeans and not Latin Americans. We in the U.S. often ignorantly confuse this because we don’t know where the Spanish language came from. Heck, we even think Portuguese people are also from South America.

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