Saudi Arabia’s stunning three-point plan to merge boxing into new £4BILLION UFC-style format

SAUDI ARABIA wants to take over boxing and consolidate all the rival factions into one £4billion UFC-like mega company with a stunning three-point plan.

The kingdom’s Public Investment Fund – which already owns Newcastle United – is speaking to the sport’s major promoters and sanctioning bodies, who usually work fiercely against each other, about folding under one umbrella.

The early talks are about firstly streamlining the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO into one boxing body and world title belt.

The second point is forcing warring promoters like Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn and Golden Boy’s Oscar De La Hoya to work hand-in-hand.

And the third is also the idea of stripping back the 16 hard-to-follow weight classes to a far more manageable figure.

There are currently 16 major weight classes, from the 7st 10lb light-flyweight right up to the unlimited heavyweight pinnacle of over 14st 4lbs.

The WBC and WBA have even forced through another division – to muddy the water even further – with a bridgerweight class of 14st lbs up to 16st.

At any one time there can be up to SIXTY FOUR world champions, across all weight classes and sanctioning bodies, leaving fight fans as confused as they are angry.

Following the sport is also cripplingly expensive and impossible in some situations.

In the UK, TNT, Sky Sports and streaming app DAZN all need to be subscribed to in order to catch all of the major bouts.

And even stumping up to all three doesn’t guarantee you all the significant fights live from the USA and around the rest of the world.

The sport has never been more fragmented or less popular.

But Turki Alalshikh – chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority and close advisor to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – is a boxing super-fan who is dedicated to returning the sport to its former glory.

Alalshikh has already taken Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk to the desert to compete in iconic fights.

And he is bankrolling an August 3 show in Los Angeles – complete with an Eminem concert.

Talks are also advanced for a Wembley Stadium spectacular in September, to continue promoting the Riyadh Season brand, with AJ set to star at the top of the stacked card.

And beyond that the plan is to centralise all the best parts of the sport in the same way Dana White did with the UFC.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship – bought out by Endeavour for around £3bn in 2016 – is the clear Premier League of mixed martial arts, with all of the best male and female fighters competing in their eight male divisions and three female classes.

Saudi Arabia’s stunning three-point plan to merge boxing into new £4BILLION UFC-style format | The Sun

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