The upcoming boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor is set to become the highest grossing bout in history, with the fight’s promoters saying sales from broadcasting rights are on track to beat previous records.
On Saturday, Mayweather, the undefeated US champion considered the best boxer of his generation, will face McGregor, the Irish mixed martial arts fighter who has dominated the “Ultimate Fighting Championship” (UFC) but has no previous professional boxing experience.
Given his superior experience in boxing gloves, bookmakers consider Mayweather a prohibitive favourite. Past boxing champions such as Lennox Lewis have derided the contest as a “farce.”
Yet, despite doubts about its worthiness as a sporting event, the move to bring together the two biggest stars in their respective combat sports is expected to be an irresistible allure for millions of fight fans.
Organisers will not provide exact figures of broadcasting sales to date.
But Lawrence Epstein, chief operating officer of UFC, said its internal “data points” suggested the fight was on course to beat the $410m earned when 4.4m US customers purchased “pay-per-view” television packages for the 2015 fight between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines.
“Our goal is this to be the biggest pay-per-view event in history,” said Mr Epstein. “Our goal is to eclipse what Mayweather-Pacquiao did, and we have a great chance to do that.”
Viewers in the US will be charged up to $100 to watch the fight through the American TV network Showtime. In addition, IMG, the media rights group which has been selling international broadcasting rights for the bout, said it had completed 63 separate national and regional deals. These are expected to generate a further $35m to $50m, mostly from pay-per-view sales.
“We have managed to extract every possible dollar from the market,” said Adam Kelly, head of worldwide sales for IMG. “There are over 200 territories covered by our deals. The only one left open is North Korea and I’m sure they will find a way to watch it there, somehow.”
Mr Epstein from UFC said he was confident of breaching previous audience figures for a boxing match, as the Mayweather-McGregor bout will have greater online reach than previous fights.
UFC, which is owned by media rights and talent agency WME-IMG, is aiming for between 10 and 20 per cent of the total audience to pay to watch online, with agreements in place with technology groups to allow viewing through Apple TV boxes, as well as Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation devices.
“We have a younger fan base at the UFC that is generally less tethered to a cable or satellite bundle,” said Mr Epstein. “This gives them a chance to buy an event they are interested in without taking a cable package.”
Event organisers have said that a further $60m to $70m is expected from selling tickets to the event, taking place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas which has a 20,000 person capacity.
Earlier this week, ringside tickets were being sold on secondary online markets for close to $14,000 each. Tens of millions of dollars are also expected to be received from sponsorship and merchandising.
The total prize purse for the combatants is unclear, with the fighters signing non-disclosure agreements to refrain from discussing the matter.
Before the fight was confirmed, UFC president Dana White estimated that Mayweather would earn more than $100m and McGregor close to $75m. But reports suggest the prize numbers could be far greater, should viewers tune in to watch in record numbers.