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Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza responds to Dana White, Conor McGregor: We can’t release ‘fake numbers’

Esther Lin, Showtime

The MayMac World Tour was six months ago. Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor happened last August.

Yet, the hard feelings between the UFC — particularly president Dana White and McGregor — and Showtime have persisted in the new year.

White told Yahoo Sports on Friday that he “despises” Showtime. Showtime Sports executive Stephen Espinoza responded on Twitter that White must be upset that Showtime was “telling the truth” about MayMac being the second biggest pay-per-view event of all time (4.3 million pay-per-view buys) behind Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, not No. 1.

And then McGregor chimed in, tweeting that Espinoza was a “weasel” and that MayMac was the top PPV ever worldwide. Espinoza responded to that, tweeting that MayMac wasn’t tops in North America and wasn’t tops globally, either. Showtime was the official broadcaster of the boxing event.

Later Friday, Espinoza further clarified in an interview on Sirius XM radio. The head of Showtime Sports said the network can’t release inaccurate numbers just to placate the UFC.

“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.”

McGregor called Espinoza a “weasel” during the MayMac promotional tour in July. Espinoza admitted to not enjoying becoming part of the conversation during the tour and during fight week in August. But he laughed off Friday’s aggressive tweet.

“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.”

White has been very public about wanting to dip his toe into the boxing pool. He told Yahoo that he believes he can do a better job promoting boxing and making it successful than those currently in the industry, including Showtime.

“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.”

When asked about White moving into boxing, Espinoza was extremely diplomatic.

“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.”

Espinoza said he’d even be willing to work with White, like he once did briefly when Zuffa owned Strikeforce, which had a broadcast deal with Showtime.

“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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