Tuesday, October 03, 2023  |



New Triller direction, boxing/MMA-ish mashup, could mess with Dana White and UFC

Fighters Network

Team Triller has to be given points for variety, yes?

They did Mike Tyson‘s kinda-comeback, versus Roy Jones; famous-for-being famous Jake Paul vs ex UFC guy Ben Askren, a pretty rando MSG Theatre club-level show headlined by Michael Hunter in Manhattan, a bizarro mini marriage to Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos, a Cletus Seldin/Wyclef Jean mashup in Brooklyn–and now they’re seeking to mix boxing and MMA on Nov. 27 in Texas with a new brand, “Triad Combat.”

A release promises the sun and moon, a “revolutionary, new combat team sport which incorporates boxing and MMA rules in an aggressive, fast-paced manner with the fighters competing in a specially designed triangular ring over two-minute rounds featuring professional boxers competing against professional mixed martial arts fighters.”

So far, the Nov. 27 show features Vitor Belfort, last seen whacking the 58 7/8 year old stuffing out of poor Evander Holyfield, who subbed in for Oscar De La Hoya, who got COVID (and recovered nicely.)

The Triller squad, led by Ryan Kavanaugh, is playing up this aspect: “leveling the playing field.” The fighters, which will include heavyweight contender Kubrat Pulev, last seen giving a respectable account of himself against Anthony Joshua in a stoppage loss in December 2020, will be wearing “crossover gloves.” That’s because holding will be allowed, to help the MMAers, I think, when they are getting tattooed with combos. Viewers, Triller hopes, will dig the PPV ($30) as they watch tussling done on an “even battleground where neither opponent has a greater advantage.”

Triller has been doing boxing events for the last year.

And that’s not all!

At Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, where the MLB Rangers make home, fight fans can bop their head to “Enter Sandman,” because Hall of Fame metal/rock gods Metallica will play a concert, which will be part of the PPV.

And the release teases “other surprise guests” as well.

Metallica will play in Texas Nov. 27, 2021, as part of the Triller Triad Combat debut event.

I’m not sure Ryan Kavanaugh liked it when I wrote that he throws spaghetti at all the walls, to see what sticks, but he realizes that’s more of a positive than negative, in my mind at least. I still hope the company goes back to the tone established by Pete Davidson at the Atlanta show at which Al Bernstein had to wear a gas mask to keep from being roasted by second hand spliff smoke. But I think they’re trying to see what demos best respond to their efforts.

My managing editor at NYFights.com, Abe Gonzalez, has a keen eye and mind, for seeing the writing on the wall, even if the text is tiny.

Many of the artists Triller has spotlit are up his genre alley, so I asked him to share a bit how he thinks Triller has done in one year.

“Since the birth of Triller and its introduction to the boxing world, the company has seen its fair share of ups and downs,” said Gonzalez, an active duty Marine stationed in North Carolina.

“Before Triller put on Tyson vs. Jones, something was built between two of music’s most talented producers, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, called ‘Verzuz.’ During the lockdown last year, Swizz and Timbo created an environment on Instagram which gave the artist a platform to match up to their catalog against others while we all were stuck at home. The model was genius and generated enough interest to land Apple TV as a distributor eventually. As the show gained more notoriety, they struck an exclusive distribution deal with Triller. The deal made sense as Verzuz would average anywhere between 500k and 2 million live viewers during each event. That’s the type of captive audience you want to have handy when promoting other events that will be shown on that platform. Meshing boxing events and Verzuz is an intelligent move by Triller, but only if you can turn those music consumers into regular boxing fans,” Abe continued. “The Lox vs. Dipset was a sellout, and it gave a “club show” card some main event feel to it because of the buzz created by the Verzuz. Only time will tell if this model allows Triller to continue to put on boxing shows. For now, I am all about it, and so are the people who have purchased tickets to these events.”

Kavanaugh says he and Triller are deriving great benefit from the eyeballs they attract and interactivity of content consumers.

And back to the nuts and bolts parts of the new direction for Triller Fight Club. Regarding the regulations for the Triad bouts: We will see underhooks, overhook, Muay Thai tactics, and no, you will not see kicks. We could see a spinning backfist, and a Superman punch. Guys will be able to stand on a foe’s foot, and punch them. No knees will be allowed, or elbows. Sorry, the MMA guys won’t be able to lock a guillotine in. There will be no takedowns, and no ground grappling. No head butts, either. The ring/cage is supposed to be a triangle shape, as laid out in this piece,and the BYB people say the matter still isn’t sorted, as of Nov. 4. I just wanted to make sure on this element, too, so I asked Ryan Kavanaugh if punching to the balls is allowed.

“No, it’s in the rules,” he said. “No below the belt punches.

“This is just the next step in the evolution of fight club starting from the Tyson event one year ago, to building Jake Paul and the Trillerverz, our last three shows have set records being in the top watched of all events of the year, beating even the NFL and The Bachelor,” Kavanaugh continued.

Aside: I will take his word on ratings and numbers, I don’t have access to that info. Kavanaugh can let his enthusiasm for salesmanship over bubble, spurring him to be too optimistic with projected or desired goals or benchmarks. The man is a natural born salesman, and he’s not held back by a desire to exude an ‘above it all cool’ vibe. He doesn’t shy from touting, boldly, maybe beyond boldly…the release reads “the highly anticipated debut of TRIAD COMBAT on Saturday, November 27 is expected to shatter all existing Pay-Per-View records in a unique broadcast which will include special surprises throughout.”

Shatter? I’m dubious.

And he’s Kavanaugh…who wants to break through the traffic jam of content, force you to look up from all that IG scrolling, because your ears twitched when you heard ‘shatter all existing Pay-Per-View record.’

“Each event we listen to the fans and adjust accordingly to their voices, this is a year of tweaking and twisting and adjusting to create a sport for the fans, by the fans,” the Triller show runner said. “Most important, it is the first time the playing field will be leveled between MMA and boxing, also making it the first team combat sport.”

How so?

“Boxing and MMA each are a team and there is a scoring system and a win for the team, including money for the win,” Kavanaugh explained. “So if the MMA team wins each MMA fighter, win or lose their individual fight, get paid a piece of the pie. If Team Boxing wins, win or lose each boxer gets paid a piece of the pie. The pie gets bigger and bigger all the way to crowning world champion,” he said, referring then to a “multi million dollar bonus if your team wins.”

That got me thinking, because it’s been in the news, the “pay issue” at UFC…

Does Dana White know about this, and is this Triad concept going to be attracting UFC fighters who are free contractually, lured by the possibility of earning much larger paychecks than they’ve been accustomed to?

“I don’t think (White knows about this possible complicator, a new place for his fighters to consider de-camping to) so, as this just went out, but he will,” Kavanaugh said. To that point–Mike Perry lost two straight in UFC and his contract ended, so he decided to mix it up, and take part in a bare knuckle fight for David Feldman’s BKFC organization, and now he’ll his hands at TTC. The 30 year old ruffian is a fan friendly rumbler who has beefed up his Wikipedia page with a bunch of altercations, allegations and such. “These businesses compete for that Mike Perry money,” Perry told The MMA Hour this week, “and they and I, we all helped raise awareness for violent people all over the world who deserve more respect, and they’re willing to fight for it, and they fight for it over and over again, and they get something that they’ve never been offered before.”

So, is Kavanaugh planning on defections, from UFC to his Triad spot? “It’s already happening,” the California businessman said. “I’m getting calls. Very interesting ones.”

Frank Mir, a UFC staple, will be a virtual staple of Triller events when he does duty on Nov. 27. Mir fought Steve Cunningham, the ex cruiser champ, at the Paul vs DadBad Boxer Askren card.

Nah, Mir won’t rematch with USS Cunningham, this time fighting with Triad rules. Mir meets Alexander Flores on Nov. 27.

OK, yes, Kavanaugh and Dana White have sparred hard at times this past year..that got me wondering, is that part of Kavanaugh’s motivation here, to get at a White weak spot?

“We had so many UFC fighters begging to join us, just sick of being underpaid and under-appreciated,” Kavanaugh said. “At the same time they all wanted to box as well but we all also know putting MMA v Boxing with real boxers, the boxer always has the advantage so this “levels the playing field” so to speak, gives the fans what they want and gives the fighters what they want.”

And while I had him, any hints on the “special attractions?”

I prodded, asking him who would be “verzuz” Metallica, but he didn’t bite. He did say they got 5.2 million comments during their last Trillerverz (Oct. 16, 17) and that 18 to 27s are very much watching the Triller product.

I got in a couple more questions to Kavanaugh, including: Is Triller Fight Club’s boxing division shuttered? “Nope, still TrillerVerz and Fight Club,” Kavanaugh said.

I pushed my luck, asking if Mir would rematch with Cunningham, this time using Triad rules? No answer at the time, though I heard back later…I don’t know, Kavanaugh moved on, probably firing fistfuls of spaghetti at who knows what target, while away from his phone.

–Michael Woods is a Brooklyn resident. The father of two worked in the newspaper business, at NY Newsday, before joining  ESPN The Magazine. He’s been editor in chief of TheSweetScience.com, he’s publisher of NYFights.com, is a podcaster, and does blow by blow on live boxing events.