Team Triller has a concept which will roll out to the masses in Nov. 27, and Triller Fight Club show-runner Ryan Kavanaugh is maintaining that this is a game changer.
“The Triller Triad” is the rectangular staging ground for bouts which allow boxing techniques, plus some moves which are present in the mixed martial arts realm.
The company ran a show Saturday night at Barclays Center, one of their “TrillerVerz” mashups. The four bout fight card ran three hours, and then after a quick changeover break, three hours of music unfolded. So, Long Islander Cletus Seldin’s showy drop ‘n stop of William Silva provided a solid segue into a set by Wyclef Jean, Super Cat, and support talent.
I covered the fights on deadline, then stayed and toyed with the story, adding photos and captions while the Fugees front man and the Jamaican DJ plied their trade. Some Brooklyners in the row in front of me asked me what the eff I was doing, as I sat, while bopping my head to the beats.
“I cover boxing,” I said, and showed them the story about the scraps which had just played out.
“We didn’t know there was boxing,” one of the gals admitted, but they all nodded yes when I asked if they liked the fights.
Yes, Triller is still figuring out their formula, it feels like. It’s not a jaw dropper that on Nov. 27 the company which branched from their Tik Tok type social network platform into the pugilism sphere with a Nov. 28, 2020 Mike Tyson comeback against Roy Jones about a year ago will unveil what they hope will help cement their place in this space, “Triad Combat.”
I asked Kavanaugh for specifics and he sent me a promo video, which promises a thrilling novelty of a product for fight sports fans.
The California based businessman gave no word on if they’ll keep running pure boxing shows, or look to go all in with “Triad” fights. Yes, that crew is still throwing spaghetti at the wall, seeing what sticks.
To this point, the road traveled on the boxing route has featured some smooth portions during the trek but also some flat tire moments.
After the April 17 Jake Paul PPV, their luck got spottier. Peter Kahn got named “Chief Boxing Officer” on March 22, and that Paul v Ben Askren topped promotion suggested the brand could bring new energy into a sort of stale state of the sport.
The “three leagues” construct, Top Rank/ESPN, PBC and partners Showtime and Fox, and the DAZN/ Eddie Hearn pairing, has proven of late, arguably, to be harmful to the health of the sport. Authentic collaboration has lessened, and “every entity for themself” thinking has meant the titans got too self focused, and set up too many in-house fights. Arum, Haymon and Hearn have all been guilty at times of being too centered on holding onto market share and turf and revenue streams and not on providing compelling product, and satisfying patrons. Maybe, some figured, Triller would shake some sense into the OGs and OOGs.
So, yeah,“disruption” happened, but the ratio of “good disruption” to no bueno disruption has not been exactly stellar.
How much was Kahn’s fault? Hard to say, until we hear from him. He and Triller parted ways in September, that after he received all the verbal bouquets from Kavanaugh when he got hired.
No details on that breakup came out, so determine responsibility for missteps cannot really occur, as we on the outside just don’t have a conception of what the heck has been going on in the TrillerTorium, or whatever their headquarters/hideout is called.
Anyway, sans Kahn, the road to Teofimo-Kambosos didn’t suddenly break out of gridlock. By early October, the drama regarding if and when and where Lopez would fight his IBF lightweight mandatory went to a new level. And that level got surpassed when fight fans were told the show must and will go on, but remember, really keep this in the front of your mind, card subject to change! The addition of one Thorsten Meier as COO hasn’t paid obvious dividends, either.
Triller is still finding an identity, or, better to say, searching for one. Finding one in the sport isn’t easy, it’s a shark tank at times, and even seasoned pros like Oscar De La Hoya find themselves having their brand identity challenged. The Canelo exit from Golden Boy and subsequent challenge to revenue generating prospects leaves Oscar in a flux, and spurred him to attempt a fighting comeback, which got put on hiatus because he contracted COVID less than two weeks before his faceoff with MMA legend Vitor Belfort.
Boxing fans have been offered YouTuber battles from Triller, and ultra vet seniors tour scraps, variety show type setups, musical interludes from ultra A side pop stars, and boxing/hip hop open marriage events. No, there hasn’t been anything resembling continuity on display, it’s fair to say.
Fans were promised a harder focus on the pugilism and also non-gimmicky pugilism when the rights to platform Lopez-Kambosos were secured, and after the sad spectacle that was 58 year old Evander Holyfield being battered by 44 year old Belfort played out.
We heard on the grapevine that Triller Fight Club’s bipolar branding did no favors for a guy like Kevin McBride, the Mike Tyson conqueror who’d been invited back into the mix, and then told to buzz off when seniors became radioactive as eyeball lures.
There have been a b-load of incidents and accidents, some minor, some more considerable. Kavanaugh’s lawyer letters are the stuff legend, which is saying something, because the sport collects characters with condom-ish efficiency…but ideally the brand is associated with compelling fights and a vibe which mirrors some of the hipper cultural trends, not the napalmic missives aimed at their rivals.
Most assessors of Trillers’ year in this arena would assert that promises made need to be promises kept, if not every time, then at least more often, moving forward.
But….Triller ain’t boring, so they make my job, in theory, easier, and more interesting. Kavanaugh is an intriguing character, for sure, and he relishes stirring the pot, enjoys splashing some stew and isn’t too worried if the splatters leave a stain, of hurt feelings.
Back to Saturday…One boxing lifer on the promotional side asked me, psssst, whaddya think of this Triller gang, will they stick around?
I answered what anyone not in the Triller inside sanctum should: “I don’t know.”
A friend, a connected attorney with deep roots in the sport, came up to me while Wyclef played, and said, “Triller has got something here. If they can just get their boxing shit together…!”
I’m a Libra, an open minded person, by and large. I like to try and have a respectable command of both sides of an issue. So, for that reason, I’ll chill my vocal chords and resist the temptation to call on my decades as a watcher of the game who’s seen countless incursions into the space from disrupters and folks who think their mouse trap is a triumph of engineering. Darn right, I’ve heard it before, versions of the voiceover to the “Triad” sizzle snippet: “A revolution in combat sports is coming… A new battleground with news rules, new ring, new equipment! The first truly revolutionary combat sport in decades,” the Godly voice promises. Yep, setting a high bar again, a vow to “level the playing field between boxing and MMA… November twenty seventh, combat sports will never be the same!”
Confession: I think combat sports post Nov. 27 will be roughly the same.
But I’m not here to throw darts, I submit this story to alert you all that Team Triller is still doing its thing. So, there will be more exotic fights being made, more NFTs being offered, more pasta being tossed at walls. There probably will be more curious choices like having “the Hebrew Hammer” as A side attraction before a Wyclef Jean/Barrington Levy/Super Cat concert, an audacious or egregious co mingling depending on what you think of Triller Fight Club. Because Kavanaugh is an idea guy who doesn’t seem to worry much about hot takes by sniping pundits. I bet that as I type this, he’s getting ready to throw more pasta at the wall.