MMA journalist Ariel Helwani challenged recent reports suggesting that Francis Ngannou’s professional boxing debut against Tyson Fury in Riyadh fell short.
Francis Ngannou’s decision to decline an offer that would have made him the highest-paid heavyweight in UFC history raised eyebrows among fans and peers alike. Many believed he had “fumbled the bag” by turning down offers from BKFC and UFC.
Ngannou’s groundbreaking deal with the PFL and his high-stakes boxing debut against Fury was met with skepticism. Critics wondered if this new path would prove fruitful.
Recent reports claim that Ngannou’s match with Fury only garnered 67,000 pay-per-view buys. This figure was first put forth by Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer. This number has become a focal point of discussion, but Ariel Helwani urges a more comprehensive understanding.
Helwani restated on Monday’s broadcast of The MMA Hour that Meltzer’s claimed figures only account for sales of the event made via ESPN+ and U.S. cable and satellite providers. The numbers utterly disregard the event’s global performance.
With Tyson Fury as the leading figure in the matchup, Helwani asserts that any blame should be directed towards Tyson. Factors like the timing of the announcement and the choice of Saturday afternoon also played a role.
Helwani stated: “The new thing is that [Ngannou] bombed on pay-per-view. Let me explain a couple of things to you because there’s a lot of new people to the fight game. Number one; the A-side was Tyson Fury so if anyone is to be blamed, it’s Tyson, and he should not be blamed.”
“I believe the way they announced it. Having it on Saturday afternoon… All these things are factors, but that doesn’t even matter because I see a lot of people posting this 67,000 number and using that as some sort of gotcha moment.”
He sheds light on the additional viewership from TNT Sports Box Office in the U.K., where Tyson holds significant drawing power. The Canadian and DAZN numbers are also overlooked.
Helwani continued: “That number that you keep seeing parrotted around isn’t the entire actual number, and I can’t believe I even have to sit here and explain this to all of you. Again, the guy who was never even arguing in favor of the pay-per-view or not. It’s ESPN+ and U.S. numbers. That’s what that number is from Dave Meltzer who’s been doing this for a very long time.”
“My sources tell me it’s a little bit above that, but let’s just say it’s nowhere above 100,000. That’s the ESPN+ on Saturday afternoon and American pay-per-view numbers. Completely ignoring the fact that it also on TNT Sports Box Office, aka the network formerly known as BT Sport, in the U.K. where Tyson is his biggest draw. That’s where he has the most drawing power.”
“Ignoring that… Ignoring the Canada number, which I don’t think is a massive one, and ignoring the DAZN number which is everywhere, but the U.S., the U.K., and Ireland. You’re ignoring all these numbers.”
While the numbers are not yet finalized, Helwani confidently asserts that the figure to consider is not 67,000. He claims that 400,000 pay-per-view purchases have been made overall, although that figure is probably much higher once all of the revenues are in.
Helwani stated: “Those numbers are still not 100 percent, but I can tell you with great certainty right now, and I’m being extremely conservative when I say this, the number you should be throwing in my face isn’t 67,000. It’s not even 100,000. The number you should be throwing in my face is 400,000, and I feel very confident it will be above that.:
“That’s at its base. 400k. You’re not seeing that number parrotted around and that’s fine. You might be saying, ‘400k? That’s nothing compared to what the UFC does.’ Okay, maybe, but that would also make it the highest-selling pay-per-view involving an MMA fighter in an event not promoted by the UFC.”
Helwani acknowledges that while this may not rival the figures achieved by the UFC, it marks the highest-selling pay-per-view involving an MMA fighter in an event not promoted by the organization.
Helwani stated: “Obviously [Conor] McGregor and [Floyd] Mayweather did way more, but it was also promoted by the UFC.”