Before any fighters even took the ring on September 11th, Triller’s latest boxing PPV already had the air of a farce about it. The decision to replace Oscar De La Hoya with a borderline-sexagenarian Evander Holyfield against former UFC champ Vitor Belfort had sparked widespread criticism and resulted in a change of venues from Los Angeles, CA, to Hollywood, FL—after the California Athletic Commission refused to sanction the fight.
Add to it a growing confusion as to whether any of the notable bouts on the card were actually even pro fights (as had been advertised), or merely exhibitions (which is what they ended up being), and the sense leading in to the event was of a car rattling to pieces as it sped down the highway.
It’s little surprise, then, that the final destination for said vehicle appears to have been disaster. In an unexpected announcement, Triller’s PR company – EAG Sports Management – very publicly dropped their business relationship with the promotion. Triller released their own statement a couple days later, announcing that they were “stepping away from exhibition stuff,” like Holyfield vs. Belfort and Silva vs. Ortiz.
The company handling PR for Triller and Triller Fight Club just rage quit. Totally normal companies. pic.twitter.com/ZCS3UXmMjV— Chris Stokel-Walker (@stokel) September 13, 2021
A new report from longtime boxing writer Dan Rafael may provide just a little more insight into exactly why this event ended up being such a stark turning point for the promotion that rose to prominence due to their work with Jake & Logan Paul, as well as the exhibition bout between Mike Tyson & Roy Jones Jr late last year. Namely, it seems the Holyfield vs. Belfort card was a massive financial flop.
Per sources, #HolyfieldBelfort event totaled about 150k PPV buys between linear & digital platforms, which would make it a massive $ loser for Triller. At 150k it would gross about $7.5M from ppv, not remotely close to covering even the purses, not to mention rest of expenses.— Dan Rafael (@DanRafael1) September 16, 2021
Under normal circumstances, 150k buys for a newly minted fight company wouldn’t be such a bad thing. After all, Bellator’s two attempts at a PPV event were estimated to pull somewhere in the neighborhood of just 100k buys, as were both Affliction cards. Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Baroni hit just 35k back in 2007. PPV has generally not been a kind platform to newcomers in the combat sports industry.
However, Triller has made their mark not just with the unexpected fight bookings they’ve come up with, but the obvious expenses they go through to make those fights happen. Their cards have featured numerous performances by A-list musicians, celebrity broadcast teams (most recently featuring former US president Donald Trump), and the kinds of veteran fight talent interested in earning fight purses in the multiple millions. In those kinds of circumstances, anything less than a huge success has the potential to be an unmitigated disaster.
If the company really is moving away from high profile exhibition bouts, as they suggested, it remains to be seen how much success they can have going forward. After all, a big portion of the notoriety they’ve enjoyed so far has come via the new fans they bring with those high-priced celebrity guests and star fighters. If they lose those angles, 150k buys might look a lot more like a ceiling than a floor.