What happens if Victor Ortiz beats Floyd Mayweather, Jr. this weekend?
It's not likely to happen. According to Bodog, Mayweather is a gigantic favorite (-625) over Ortiz (+425). I personally believe Ortiz's fighting style to be too linear. Against a fighter like Mayweather, who is a master of cutting angles and getting out of bad positions in the ring, Ortiz's offensive make-up should be his undoing.
But let's just say I'm wrong and the oddsmakers are wrong. Not only does Ortiz beat Mayweather, but does so in a way such that Mayweather looks old. What does that mean?
While a rematch would likely be in order, it could also mean the death of our generation's greatest superfight. Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather is, without question, the largest promotional and perhaps most meaningful fight of our era. That includes any permutation in either boxing or mixed martial arts.
It's not a guarantee a loss to Ortiz undercuts any interest in that superfight. Fight fans so desperately crave it, they'd potentially overlook a loss to Ortiz just to resolve the magnetic push-pull that's surrounded Mayweather and Pacqauio that materialized after Pacquiao's win over David Diaz.
However, the more likely outcome would be the dissolution of significant interest in any potential showdown between boxing's two greatest (welterweight) fighters. Part of what's making fight fans clamor for a Pacquiao vs. Mayweather contest is their star power. As long as that's in place, a fight is always possible. But the reality is it's their popularity in conjunction with the prevailing notion that both men have no else left to fight. Speaking literally, that's not true, but fights against retreads like Shane Mosley or talented but ultimately doomed fighters like Ortiz are distractions from what fight fans crave.
So while 'Vicious' Victor Ortiz doing the highly improbable this weekend may not end a potential megafight, his win would significantly dampen interest in Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. That leaves a huge window of opportunity for the UFC.
It's true boxing and MMA compete for different dollars, but as the UFC tries to expand it's reach into different or emerging demos that's beginning to change.
During the press conference where UFC announced their landmark deal with Fox, I asked UFC President Dana White if it was coincidence this first UFC on Fox was being held the same day as Pacquiao vs. Marquez III. White said then, and has insisted since, he is a Pacquiao fan (which is true) and is not trying to go up against his favorite living boxer. The one fight that evening on Fox (Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos) is scheduled to end before Pacquiao ever enters the ring.
But what's so interesting about the UFC's deal with Fox is how it's packaging and architecture are lifted from boxing's blueprints. The fight being shown is a heavyweight title fight. Historically speaking, that is the marquee and most significant fight that can be made. To the very casual sport or fight fan, "the heavyweight championship" remains the pinnacle of combat sports. The Fox executives went so far as to dub Cain vs JDS this generation's 'Ali vs. Foreman', a totally unjustifiable claim. But the merit of the claim isn't the issue. That boxing's architecture and apogee are being refracted through a modern-day MMA lens is the more compelling angle.
The loss of boxing's super fight could create the opportunity for any potential UFC super fight to have that much more impact. Speaking promotionally and psychologically in the minds of both casual fans and key media influencers, that is. The message to them would be clear: see where boxing failed? UFC picked right up. See how that disorganized mess of egos and insular deal making couldn't deliver the fight fans wanted to see? UFC did exactly the opposite. Does anyone really believe that should Ortiz beat Mayweather or Marquez get revenge on Pacquiao, Dana White won't talk about boxing's squandered opportunities?
The UFC is a nimble machine, but they cannot configure their 2012 business plans waiting for boxing to trip over itself. But the UFC is also nothing if not very clever and opportunistic. As White has noted since announcing the Fox deal, the UFC is not yet mainstream. This deal allows them the opportunity to get closer. The UFC's first true super fight would facilitate that climb. Whether it's Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva or Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones or Brock Lesnar vs. someone else can be determined at a later date where fan attitudes can be more accurately read. The point is this UFC on Fox deal combined with any failure of boxing's cognoscenti to deliver this generation's biggest fight makes for a monumental moment. That would not only be true in terms of defining the UFC as the combat sports leader. It would also be true on the grounds by which boxing has been defined, identified and understood. A true super fight reaching key mainstream and emerging audiences without competition from boxing's bigger mega fights could result in UFC stealing boxing's mega-fight, cultural event crown for the next generation of fight fans.
All that has to happen to kick off the butterfly effect is Ortiz beating Mayweather. Let's see what happens Saturday.