The worlds of combat sports will collide as Floyd Mayweather comes out of retirement this Saturday to face UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor in a boxing match at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
If you believe the UFC’s Dana White, the event is trending to surpass 4.9 million PPV buys which would surpass the previous record of 4.4 million PPV buys for Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in May 2015. Despite the large audience, the fight turned out to be a dud as many left unsatisfied. Post-fight Pacquiao revealed a shoulder injury that may have been a contributing factor to a poor performance. As you may have expected, a plethora of lawsuits followed. Showtime sued Pacquiao’s promoter Top Rank as a result of an indemnification agreement related to lawsuits filed by people that purchased the $100 PPV but Pacquiao failed to disclose his injury. The Showtime-Top Rank lawsuit was settled.
If you believe the UFC’s Dana White, the event is trending to surpass 4.9 million PPV buys.
While many celebrities will attend, most will choose to watch on PPV or closed-circuit television in Vegas. There is also the option of going to a local movie theatre to watch the fight. Ticket sales for the fight have not been moving as initially forecasted. As of Monday, tickets for the fight at the T-Mobile Arena were still available via Ticketmaster. Of course, there are a healthy amount of tickets readily available on the secondary market such as StubHub or SeatGeek. The cheapest seat to get-in is $1,297. In comparison, the “get-in” price for Mayweather-Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Arena was $4,000 per seat. Tickets were sold out the week of the fight for Mayweather-Pacquiao. The gate for the May 2015 fight between Mayweather and Pacquaio garnered a Nevada record of $72,198,500 in gross ticket sales. The second highest was $20 million (Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez September 2013). Even if the fight is not sold out, due to the high-priced tickets, you can expect Mayweather-McGregor to surpass Mayweather-Canelo and close to Mayweather-Pacquiao’s $72M gate.
To add another wrinkle to Saturday’s fight, on August 16th, the Nevada Athletic Commission granted a “one time” exception to allow the boxers to use 8-ounce gloves. The Nevada Athletic Code Chapter 467.427(5)(a) and (b) requires fighters competing at the 154-pound weight limit to use 10-ounce gloves:
5. Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, for contests or exhibitions of boxing and kickboxing, each unarmed combatant weighing in: (a) At 135 pounds or less must wear gloves which weigh 8 ounces during the contest or exhibition; (b) At more than 135 pounds must wear gloves which weigh 10 ounces during the contest or exhibition, except that an unarmed combatant weighing in at more than 135 pounds but not more than 147 pounds may wear gloves which weigh 8 ounces during the contest or exhibition if both unarmed combatants agree to wear gloves of that weight.
The change in the gloves came at the request of Mayweather and was agreed upon by McGregor’s camp. On social media, Mayweather made his case for the 8-ounce gloves and proclaimed to media members that he did not want any excuses from McGregor if and when the Irish fighter lost to the 40-year-old.
The advantage would seemingly favor McGregor since he is accustomed to smaller gloves. In MMA, the standard size glove is fingerless and four ounces. The lighter the glove, one might argue, favors McGregor since his trademark punching power would be severe and if landed, it could cause the possibility of a knockdown. On the other end of that argument, Mayweather’s superior hand speed would favor lighter gloves. The quicker the hands, the easier to pick McGregor apart.
Mayweather has had issues with his opponents and gloves in the past. In his first fight with Marcos Maidana, he was concerned with the type of model of glove Maidana used claiming that gloves did not contain enough padding.
The issue of gloves came up during a four stop promotional tour in July which hit Los Angeles, Toronto, New York and London on consecutive days. The change in gloves may not have an impact on the actual fight, but the belief that McGregor may have a better chance of catching Floyd with a hard-left hand might be just enough for a casual fight fan to spend the $99.95 HD ($89.95 standard definition) to watch.
Along with the gloves, the NAC has come under scrutiny for the handling of this event. Mayweather is a professional boxer with a 49-0 record. McGregor has no experience in boxing and has no professional record. McGregor is a UFC fighter with a background in combat sports. It might be a mismatch on paper, but the NAC allowed the fight to be licensed and sanctioned.
Even so, NAC Executive Director Bob Bennett proclaimed in an interview on Monday that money had nothing to do with granting McGregor a license and allowing the “one time” exception for the gloves.
When the fight was first announced in mid-June, it was made clear that the UFC was not promoting the event.
Another issue that was finalized at the last Nevada Athletic Commission meeting prior to this fight was who would be the official promoter(s) of the fight. When the fight was first announced in mid-June, it was made clear that the UFC was not promoting the event. Mayweather Promotions, the promotional arm of the 49-0 boxer, applied for the license with the Nevada Athletic Commission. Yet, on Wednesday, August 16th, the NAC approved the promoter license for Zuffa (UFC) to co-promote the bout on Saturday.
Under the regulations in Nevada, a promoter includes “any person who intends or plans to produce, arrange or stage, who is currently producing, arranging or staging, or who has formerly produced, arranged or staged any professional contest or exhibition.” From the outset, the UFC had stated that Mayweather Promotions and Showtime as the producer of the event would take the lead in marketing the fight while the UFC would aid in its own platforms such as hyping the fight on it’s over the top digital platform, Fight Pass as well as through its televised UFC events on FS1 and UFC pay-per-views.
The promoter must pay a 6% ticket fee on the gross sale of tickets and must pay a “6% fee on complimentary tickets if they exceed 4% of the gross seating of the house, or are used to trade for services.” Additionally, the promoter must pay 3% of the first million dollars in television/broadcast revenue and 1% of the next 2 million. The cap out that the promoter may pay is $50,000.
But maybe the biggest takeaway as promoter is that it will be able to receive the gate receipts and pay fighters, including Mayweather and McGregor, after receipt of the gross revenue. According to the rules in Nevada, the promoter provides the Commission with checks to pay the fighters on the event card. The rules state that the promoter may withhold an amount of “not more than 10 percent of the purse” for payment of expenses incurred,” by the fighters. This may be key if there is a dispute with respect to the payouts for the event when it comes to the split between Mayweather and McGregor. Although there have no official payout estimates, Mayweather is expected to receive the bulk of the revenue while Zuffa and McGregor will share the split (although it is not known if that split will be 50-50 or something less or more).
Another issue that arises related to Zuffa’s application to be a co-promoter is that it may have availed itself to the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (“Ali Act”). The Act, a federal law which was enacted to protect boxers from promoters that may take advantage of the sport by conducting dishonest business affairs which usually surface in the contracts that boxers are subjected to sign to fight. In May 2016, a congressman introduced a bill to expand the Ali Act to the sport of mixed martial arts. The UFC has lobbied against the expansion of the Ali Act. Currently, former UFC fighters are embroiled in a prolonged antitrust lawsuit in Nevada. The case is currently in the fact discovery phase. But, even if Zuffa must comply with the Ali Act for boxing as a promoter, the Act has not shown a lot of teeth in its enforcement in recent years.
Despite being a co-promoter for a boxing event, Nevada Athletic Commission Executive Director Bob Bennett noted that a promoter’s license in Nevada does not specify between boxing and MMA. Thus, this could be a possible loophole excluding Zuffa from the Ali Act.
After the Mayweather-McGregor fight, it will be interesting to see whether Zuffa’s foray into boxing is a future expansion of its brand.
But first, The Money Fight happens on Saturday.