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After Holyfield-Belfort farce, Triller COO says ‘we’re stepping away from exhibition stuff only’

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A change in strategy after a truly farcical card.

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Donald Trump call Holyfield vs. Belfort boxing fight in Florida
Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort did a boxing match. It was sad, sorry, and unnecessary.
Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Is Triller Fight Club having a change of heart?

Last Saturday’s pay-per-view event, which pitted a 58-year-old Evander Holyfield against former UFC champion Vitor Belfort in the headlining act, was heavily criticized from an ethical and safety standpoint. It might officially be recorded as an exhibition but Holyfield was knocked down and took some hard shots before the referee stepped in.

To date, Triller has been known for interspersing novelty fights — usually involving former MMA fighters, past their prime boxers, or social media influencers — with musical acts in its short history in the fight game. Jake Paul fought on their first two shows before signing with Showtime. If the response to last Saturday’s circus means anything, it looks as if the circus act has run its course.

Will Triller change its strategy moving forward? If new Triller chief operating officer Thorsten Meier is to be believed, that will be the case.

“At the end of the day, what we want to do at Triller Fight Club is to put on professional fights,” Meier said to Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole. “We are stepping away from exhibition stuff only. Yeah, Tyson was great and whatever [in a November fight with Roy Jones] and got the biggest pay-per-view, whether it was because of the pandemic or whatever. But the focus is on full-blown professional fights and the focus is most certainly on full-blown good professional fights. There are more and more to come.”

Meier is very much embedded in the boxing business, having worked with both Klitschko brothers and Gennadiy Golovkin over the years. He also indicated to Yahoo that Triller will be involved in purse bids of major fights, which is really one of their few realistic routes to have quality, high-level matchups under their banner unless they sign a deal with one of boxing’s major promotions.

I suppose part of the reason Triller may have to pivot away from the exhibitions is, well, if they want to use the aging fighters it may be more difficult to actually pull this off.

First, the debacle in Florida caught the eye of several regulators, including Mike Mazzulli, the president of the Association of Boxing Commissions.

Mazzulli understands the sport and, like Andy Foster of California, would never have sanctioned any of those three bouts as legitimate fights. Foster was going to sanction Silva-Ortiz as an exhibition, but he was not going to allow Holyfield-Belfort, which is why the bout was moved from the Staples Center in Los Angeles to the Hard Rock Seminole in Hollywood, Florida.

“We’re going to come out with some new regulations for approving fighters 40 years old and older,” said Mazzulli, who said Foster and longtime ringside physician Michael Schwartz are chairing the committee to come up with the new standards.

Triller Fight Club’s next major event is on Monday, October 4th, when lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez defends his titles against George Kambosos Jr. The undercard is filled with regular boxing matches, so this is effectively going to be their first “normal” boxing card to date.