The Money Fight lived up to its billing.
Officials are still counting the sales and thus can’t provide an exact number for the Aug. 26 boxing match in Las Vegas between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, but at worst, it will be the second-biggest pay-per-view number ever.
Mayweather’s 2015 bout with Manny Pacquiao continues a very tenuous hold on the top spot at 4.6 million buys. Stephen Espinoza, the executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports, told Yahoo Sports that while the count is ongoing, it appears that Mayweather-McGregor is tracking for between mid-4 million and high-4 million.
“It’s still a little fuzzy and I don’t have it narrowed down to a precise range yet,” Espinoza told Yahoo Sports. “I’m comfortable saying it’s mid-4 to high-4. That means that, a), it was a massive number and b), if we don’t break the [domestic] record, we’re going to be really, really close. We consider the whole thing a massive success.”
Though there were problems with digital sales on both Showtime’s newly developed streaming service and UFC.tv, none of those people are counted in the number, Espinoza said. He said the digital sales were very strong and said around 40 percent of the UFC.tv buyers purchased from them for the first time.
The world-wide pay-per-view number is also huge, though records aren’t kept on that. But it stands at 6.7 million and will grow before the final accounting is complete.
But by doing at least 4 million in the U.S., Mayweather-McGregor guarantees itself that it will be the second-best selling pay-per-view in history with a good shot that it will exceed the 4.6 million that Mayweather-Pacquiao sold in 2015.
Espinoza said “it is not out of the question,” that the number in the U.S. could hit 5 million.
“If we get the traditional kind of growth that we see going from our preliminary number to kind of the ultimate number, we’ll break the record,” Espinoza said. “I’m being a little more conservative with my projection because I don’t want to assume the traditional amount of growth since this is not a traditional event.
“Sometimes, viewership grows 10 to 15 percent, and if you do the math, yeah, we could get pretty close to 5 [million]. But I think the range is really mid-4 to high-4.”
Showtime signed Mayweather to an exclusive deal in 2013, nabbing him from rival HBO. He fought seven times on Showtime PPV, including the McGregor fight, and posted three of the four largest pay-per-view numbers in history, as well as the three largest-grossing fights in history.
The McGregor fight, though, came out of nowhere and brought Mayweather out of retirement for one last bout. It’s unlikely there was any active boxer Mayweather could have fought last week who would have combined to sell more than four million with him.
“It was a perfect storm of several factors,” Espinoza said. “One, you had the two biggest names in their respective sports, both with well-established, loyal fan bases. Each of them brought those to the event and they were unduplicated fan bases. There is some crossover, not a ton, between UFC fans and boxing fans, but I think there was virtually zero crossover between Mayweather fans and McGregor fans. They brought two completely separate fan bases.
“Then, because of the nature of the event, and the spectacle, we definitely attracted a whole bunch of people who don’t ordinarily pay attention to boxing or MMA. It was sort of the superhero aspect of it, the Batman versus Superman thing, the ‘What would happen if,’ that was so attractive to so many people.”
The bout succeeded despite massive piracy. Earlier in the week, Yahoo Sports reported that viewership of illegal streams could reach upward of 100 million. Wayne Lonstein, the CEO of VFT Solutions, said that after final tabulations were complete that there were 6,977 illegal streams which accounted for 131,834,736 pirated views.