Triller’s Ryan Kavanaugh tears up UFC contracts as ‘indentured bondage’ after Georges St-Pierre turned down option to switch to boxing

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Triller co-founder Ryan Kavanaugh knows a thing or two about disrupting the status quo.

Prior to getting involved in combat sports, the now 46-year-old promoter was previously hailed as one of Hollywood’s most prolific and unconventional producers through his company, Relativity Media. He’s once been quoted as saying he doesn’t care about making movies that were going to win awards while adding “I’m not here for art… I want to make money.”

These days, Kavanaugh is turning the apple basket upside down once again through Triller Fight Club, which promotes top cards featuring names like Mike Tyson, Jake Paul and now Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort. .

His unabashedly approach to Triller Fight Club shows included live musical acts in the middle of the event, rapper Snoop Dogg blazing in a fight and inviting comedians like Pete Davidson to serve as a traveling reporter during the events.

The way Kavanaugh sees it, he’s only presenting concepts that combat sports – especially the boxing industry – should have embraced years ago.

“Boxing, MMA is for entertainment,” Kavanaugh said while speaking to MMA Fighting. “The point is, no matter how you want to break it down, the reason people watch is because it’s entertaining. The reason people pay is because it’s entertaining. As boxing shrinks and loses its following and becomes predominantly a male audience over 50, the times do not follow.

“We are literally trying to shake it up. We shake the shit. The concept is that we want every fight that we do, we want to take it to a new level. It doesn’t necessarily mean better, even if we learn from everyone, but it’s an event. It’s not a fight. So we want to bring something for everyone.

Although he has mainly focused on boxing, Kavanaugh has also found himself at odds with UFC President Dana White on several occasions in recent months, especially after trying to secure the former champion of the two divisions Georges St-Pierre as opponent of Oscar De La Hoya.

St-Pierre, who retired from UFC competition in 2019, has made it clear he has no plans to participate in mixed martial arts again, but he would be interested in switching to boxing with a chance. to do something fun like a clash with a legend like De La Hoya.

Unfortunately, even after his retirement, St-Pierre remains under a UFC contract and the promotion would not allow him to continue a fight outside the organization, even if it was not an arts competition. mixed martial arts. That didn’t suit Kavanaugh very well, who blasted the UFC for its business practices while denying an athlete a chance to make big bucks and live out his dream of competing in boxing.

“Contract easement is not allowed in the United States,” Kavanaugh said. “Yet Georges St-Pierre, who is officially retired from the UFC and has made it clear that he will never fight in MMA again, is not allowed to step into a boxing ring and [one] highest pay days he would get to fight someone he considers to be on his bucket list because Dana White says he can’t. It is simply not true.

Despite the fact that St-Pierre is still under contract with the UFC, Kavanaugh says he would still love the chance to work with the Canadian superstar, but he’s just not sure his former promoters will ever allow it. unless he challenges them in court.

“I have so much respect for Georges as a fighter and as a person,” Kavanaugh said. “I think he’s a great fighter. I think as a person he is just humble and what I learned from him is really easy to work with him. Frankly, if he wanted to, he could challenge his contract and I’m pretty sure he could win, but that’s not something I decide. I think if he wanted to fight with us and he was ready to take on the UFC and let them know that he was going to try to have his contract ruled unconstitutional, which I believe would be, but until then there is nothing we can do.

“Because we’re getting legal letters from Dana saying we’re interfering with her contracts. When I tweeted that Jon [Jones] had his little dispute that he wanted to get out of the UFC, I tweeted, I said, “Maybe you can do something with Fight Club and maybe we can find something with the UFC. ” I didn’t say around them, I said we would find something with them, maybe it’s good for all of us. I received a legal letter saying that we are interfering with their fighters. Unless someone makes that decision, there’s not much we can do because we’re not them. We would like to do something with Georges and would like to do something long term with him.

Beyond his desire to work with St-Pierre at the Triller Fight Club, Kavanaugh has also frequently criticized the UFC’s overall salary structure where athletes receive a much lower percentage of earned income than their boxing counterparts, du football, basketball or other sports greats.

Of course, leagues like the NFL and NBA have collective agreements with player unions, which guarantees athletes a certain percentage of earned income.

In most cases, athletes win around 50% of the revenue, but based on financial records released by the UFC in an ongoing antitrust lawsuit, fighters competing in the Octagon win 20% or less income.

In June, Kavanaugh also personally noted that UFC fighter Sarah Alpar started a GoFundMe page so she could afford a proper training camp to prepare for an upcoming fight. Triller ended up donating $ 25,000, which, along with a $ 5,000 donation from YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul, helped Alpar reach his goal within hours.

“I think it’s really sad,” Kavanaugh said. “Because they are not from the sport but are rooted in it now, they are people who work harder and put their brains and bodies to the test more than any profession I have.” never seen. They are pushing each other to the brink of death, literally. They subject their brains to the most intense and excruciating torture and they also have a limited combat life. It’s not like a doctor or a lawyer, you want to work, you work until you are 80 or 90 or until the day you die. In this world, because of the toll it takes on your body, there is timing in that.

“The fact that the UFC model exploits the fighters and lines their pockets, which is good, we’re all in the business, going to make a lot of money – but pay your fighters. You build the business on them. To me, I find it almost disgusting that you can build a $ 5 billion brand but can’t pay your fighter enough to be in the camp and pay her less than you pay your ring girls. What you ask them to do doesn’t make sense.

Meanwhile, retired UFC athlete Ben Askren has touted his lone fight with Triller Fight Club as the biggest paycheck he’s ever received for a fight and Kavanaugh hopes to keep that trend going for future competitive fighters. for promotion as well.

“A lot of people accuse us of overpaying,” Kavanaugh said. “The way I see it is if we make money and they make money, then we don’t overpay them. It is that simple. If we can make enough profit to make the business meaningful and grow, while paying them off and making them fair to them, this is how businesses should be run. It bites your ass otherwise.

“I’m surprised the UFC hasn’t had more of a problem to date. I know they talked about attempts to organize, but beyond that, they didn’t really dispute that their contract was unconstitutional.

On Saturday night, Triller will be promoting a card featuring a trio of UFC legends competing in boxing matches with Vitor Belfort taking on Evander Holyfield while Anderson Silva taking on Tito Ortiz.

Boxing remains Triller’s primary focus in the combat sports space for now, but Kavanaugh promises he also intends to get into MMA, which will then put him in direct competition with White. and the UFC.

“We’re very interested in working with any MMA fighter, especially legends, who still want to fight but aren’t fighting under contract or ready for a second wind, so to speak,” Kavanaugh said. “You find a lot of times in fighters, whether it’s boxers or MMA, they get exhausted a bit and they think they’re done. Then they get a second wind.

“When it comes to MMA it’s the same, we have a plan to launch our own, call it an MMA spin-off if you will, which will combine boxing and MMA in our cards and take over some elements. both. So part of their marriage is to create a hybrid that brings the two together a bit. “

Truth be told, Kavanaugh swears he’s not trying to disagree with White or any other combat sports promoter, but he’s also not going to apologize for the way Triller does business.

“Look, I think we’re trying to do something different,” Kavanaugh said. “We are trying to do something that expands [the audience]. I understand this scares people in the business. I don’t think it should. We are friendly with everyone. We want to work with everyone. We want to help elevate boxers and that has to be seen as a positive.

“Some people get it and call us every day and work with us and others do whatever they can to sabotage it. Par for the course. If it was easy, everyone would.

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