Floyd Mayweather (L) battles Manny Pacquiao (Esther Lin/Showtime)

Why Vegas is Still the Premier City for Fight Sports

We tend to take it for granted that Las Vegas is the unofficial fight capital of the world. From massively hyped boxing matches, to MMA events, to UFC Fight Night, Sin City still attracts a disproportionate amount of the action across fighting sports. So we ask: Why Vegas?

Part of it is history. While this doesn’t explain why boxing got started in Vegas, it’s undeniable that things have snowballed over time. That is to say, once Vegas became associated with one or two major fights, it began to attract more, and the cycle simply continued. There were the Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns and Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney fights at Caesars Palace in 1981 and 1982, respectively. There was 1997’s infamous Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena — a fight The Manual ranks as one of the best in history. And in more recent years, Vegas hosted the long-awaited contest between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. These are just a few examples that barely scratch the surface, but they do convey the idea Vegas has grown and solidified its reputation over time.

There’s also the very nature of the town to consider. While the heyday of casino culture may be in the past, Las Vegas remains far and away the world capital for gamblers and fortune-seekers. Its resorts are home to some of the richest and most lavish poker rooms in the world. Its seas of slot machines are virtually endless. And according to Gala Spins, Vegas remains home to the biggest recorded slot jackpot wins, with multiple stories of multimillion-dollar triumphs. All of this helps to set up an environment that is naturally welcoming to combat sports — which above all other sports exude a sense of seeking fortune. Boxing and MMA deliver rags-to-riches stories and underdog triumphs, and inspire massive betting interest at the same time. And if fans and athletes alike are going to be seeking fortunes, there’s an unspoken sense that they may as well do so in the kingdom of jackpots, chip stacks and jingling slot machines.


And then of course there’s the promotion of it all. With Vegas already established as a fighting hot spot, it’s become a no-brainer for the networks and advertisers behind boxing and MMA to promote the city itself as part of the intrigue behind events. This results in casual associations that only deepen the relationship between the city and the sports. For instance, a very casual sports fan who wouldn’t necessarily recognize major arena names across the country is likely to associate “MGM Grand Garden Arena” with boxing. Similarly, someone with only a passing interest in MMA or boxing might perk up if he or she hears that a given fight is happening in Las Vegas. These aren’t purely organic attachments. They’re a result of decades of promotion, from slapping “LAS VEGAS” onto internet banner ads for fights, to featuring a Lennox Lewis bout at a casino in Ocean’s 11.

The result of all of this, as Bleacher Report put it, is that when it comes to fighting sports there’s Las Vegas and there’s every place else.