- Mixed martial arts, UFC in particular, is a tougher sport than boxing, according to Wladimir Klitschko.
- Klitschko told Business Insider that it was harder to excel in the UFC because the competition is so fierce.
- He also said Conor McGregor, who returns to his sport on January 18 at UFC 246 in Las Vegas, “deserved respect” for fighting Floyd Mayweather the way he did.
- McGregor has fought just once in boxing but said this week he would welcome a challenge from Manny Pacquiao so he can box a second time in his career.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Wladimir Klitschko has responded to an age-old question in combat sports – which is tougher, mixed martial arts or boxing?
For Klitschko, the man who holds the record for the longest cumulative heavyweight-title reign of all time in boxing, you might assume he’d stick to his sport. But you’d be wrong.
He told Business Insider MMA – particularly the competition that exists within its premier fight organisation, UFC – is tougher.
“I have a lot of respect for guys in the cage,” he told us last year shortly after being honoured as a legend by the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis.
“You need to be super agile with your abilities, capabilities of being a wrestler and of being a boxer,” the 43-year-old said. “The rounds are longer. It is much tougher sport than boxing.
“It is difficult to remain successful in the UFC and to be a champion because the sport is very competitive. I have a lot of respect for the athletes and when I see women do it, I have even more respect.
“Maybe I could have tried UFC due to my abilities,” Klitschko said. “I wouldn’t have been a wrestler due to some health issues in my back and stuff, so wouldn’t have been capable of wrestling for long periods, though I did judo when I was younger.”
Things turned out OK for Klitschko, though. He is renowned around Europe as a cerebral champion who could sell out soccer stadiums in Germany, and he dominated heavyweight boxing in the 2000s and the first half of the 2010s.
“I was happy as a boxer,” he said.
He remains interested in the heavyweight landscape in boxing, has touted Anthony Joshua as the one to unify the division by winning all of the major championship belts on offer, and also told us he planned on returning to boxing so he could break one of the toughest records in the sport by becoming the oldest heavyweight world-title holder in history.
And though he said he did not follow UFC too much, he is interested in Conor McGregor, who returns to competition on January 18 at UFC 246 after a 15-month sojourn on the sidelines.
McGregor deserves ‘a lot of respect’
McGregor is slated to headline the UFC 246 show at the T-Mobile Arena with a fight against Donald Cerrone in a nontitle welterweight bout, but he’s talking about returning to boxing as early as this year to fight Manny Pacquiao after losing in the 10th round to Floyd Mayweather in 2017.
Klitschko liked what he saw from McGregor in the boxing ring three years ago, particularly his discipline. He thought McGregor might defy the rules of boxing and just kick Mayweather in the face.
“I’m getting to know some of the fighters like McGregor because he was getting into the boxing ring. Whatever you think of McGregor, I believe he was well-behaved and disciplined, which I did not expect when he fought Mayweather,” he said.
“Two athletes crossing over promotions with athletes involved from different sports, in a boxing ring in this case, acting under discipline with one rule – boxing. I thought he might kick but he didn’t,” Klitschko added. “McGregor is a character but being so disciplined, he deserved a lot of respect.”
McGregor previously said he wanted to fight three times this year, beginning with his weekend bout with Cerrone.
It is unclear whether the other fights will be in a UFC Octagon or boxing ring.
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