Showtime Exec Says He Won’t Lie To Inflate Dana White’s Numbers

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Photo:: Ron Chenoy for USA TODAY Sports

Although they worked together to generate one of the biggest combat sporting events of all time just five months ago, it seems that there’s some bad blood between the UFC and Showtime Sports.

UFC President Dana White worked with Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza to put on a Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather boxing match that took the combat sports world by storm. Now that the dust has settled on the event after Mayweather’s 10th round TKO win on August 26th, White has recently expressed his frustration with Espinoza and Showtime Sports. In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports White said that he “despises” Showtime.

Espinoza responded to this on Twitter by claiming he believes White’s frustrations stem from Mayweather vs. McGregor generating only the second-biggest pay-per-view (PPV) numbers of all time, at 4.3 million buys, trailing Mayweather vs. Pacquiao back in 2015. McGregor got in on the action via Twitter and called Espinoza a ‘weasel’ and said Mayweather vs. McGregor was the No. 1 PPV worldwide. Espinoza responded by stating McGregor vs. Mayweather wasn’t No. 1 in either North America or globally either.

He recently joined Sirius XM radio to discuss the matter further, and took a shot at the UFC by saying he can’t make up fake numbers and release them to the public just to satisfy White (quotes via MMA Fighting):

“Dana has got a certain style and it’s very successful for him,” Espinoza said. “The one thing I’ll point out — I don’t want to get too much into a back and forth — but we’re a public company and there are regulations, there are legal requirements. We can’t put out press releases giving fake numbers. We have shareholders. We have millions of shareholders.

“When we put something on it, when we say, ‘Here’s a Showtime Sports press release from Mayweather-Pacquiao or Mayweather-Mayweather,’ that has gone through lawyers and everyone has looked at it. It’s factual.”

As for how Espinoza feels about being under fire from the UFC lightweight champion and being called a ‘weasel,’ the Showtime Executive seems to just brush the harsh words off:

“That’s Conor,” Espinoza said. “You go through his feed and he goes at opponents like that, he goes at business people like that. He goes at referees like that sometimes. That’s him.”

Recently White told Yahoo that he believes he can do a better job at promoting boxing events than those currently involved in the industry, and that includes Showtime as well:

“When we did the Mayweather fight, I watched and took it all in, I just think all these guys, the guys who are promoting boxing today are bad at it,” White said. “I don’t think they do a good job, and I think I could do better. It sounds arrogant, but it’s the truth. I think I could do a better job than these guys do.”

Espinoza was asked how he would feel about White getting into the boxing game of promoting, and oddly enough it seems like he doesn’t have an issue with it – in fact, Espinoza said he welcomes the move:

“As a boxing fan — this is gonna sound strange — I welcome it,” Espinoza said. “Anyone who has ideas, who feels like they can come into the sport and contribute in a positive way, regardless of what those ideas are, sure. I welcome it. Which of us has not sat on the couch and said, ‘I can call a fight better than that, I can call football?’ So from that aspect, if he wants to get involved and maybe he does have ideas that will improve it — maybe his matchmaking, his promoting, his marketing, he can contribute. So from that aspect, I’m happy for him to contribute.”

In the past Espinoza has worked with Zuffa before Mayweather vs. McGregor, as Zuffa once owned Strikeforce when it had a broadcast deal with Showtime. Espinoza said he’d be willing to work with White again despite the personal animosity between the pair:

“I think it would be incredibly arrogant for me to put personal animosity ahead of something that fight fans want,” Espinoza said. “If fight fans say they want to see another [UFC vs. boxing matchup], who am I to say, ‘Nope, I don’t like the guy across the table, so you’re not gonna see it.’ That’s one of the things that’s been wrong with combat sports and boxing in particular in the past.

“I don’t have to be best friends with everybody I do business with. That’s not how business works. Can you come together as gentlemen, as smart people and get a deal done? That’s the real question.”

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