On Saturday night in Atlanta, Ga., Jake Paul knocked out Ben Askren in the first round of their professional boxing match, and though many will hate to admit it, thus far Triller Fight Club is the combat sports event of the year.
If the true measure of the success of sports is the creation of a sense of community, then by that metric alone, Triller Fight Club was an unmitigated success. Triller was far from the only thing going on Saturday night but you wouldn’t know it at the time or in the aftermath because no one was talking about anything else. For instance, on Saturday former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker put on a dominant performance over a quality contender, one that should set him up for a title rematch with Israel Adesanya, and yet no one cares because former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight champion Askren got obliterated by a Disney Channel star with Pete Davidson, Snoop Dogg, and Justin Bieber all looking on. Whether people were hate-watching it, genuinely curious, or just there for a good time, it seemed like EVERYONE was tuned into Triller. It sucked all the oxygen out of the room for anyone else, and honestly, it deserved to.
If you came into Saturday night to watch Triller without expectations and with an open mind, it was pretty damn fun. Sure, it lacked structure, and often times lacked any semblance of coherence, but it undeniably created an environment where all the people involved were having a good time and no one was taking anything too seriously. Jaleel White reprised his role of Steve Urkel for the intro where he and Snoop Dogg talked about smoking weed and creating an OnlyFans style app for Triller to broadcast street fights; Pete Davidson and Ric Flair commentated a slap fight; Oscar De La Hoya started trending on Twitter for having almost too good of a time; Mario Lopez aggressively trashed a boxer for faking an injury while that boxer was stretchered out of the ring; and Justin Bieber asked Atlanta how it was doing, despite the stadium being almost entirely empty. It was a fever dream of celebrity and absurdity.
Overall, Triller had the vibe of a bunch of rich people partying on another person’s dime while they happened to be watching a few guys get punched in the face, which is what it was and that’s okay. Triller is not for everyone and it certainly isn’t for the combat sports purists (the few that actually exist) but it also doesn’t claim to be. In fact, they were as upfront as possible about that, employing comedian Pete Davidson to serve nominally as the host of the event while also ripping it to shreds and actively taking shots at Jake Paul. Instead, Triller operates under the mantra that everything might not be for everyone but that there is at least something for anyone and in that, they delivered. None of the few VIP fans in attendance on Saturday seemed unhappy with the event and most of the people who bought the PPV online certainly seemed to enjoy themselves. Even the few curmudgeons who hate-watched the whole thing and woke up Sunday filled with regret cannot deny that for a few hours on Saturday night, they were at least a part of something, even if it was something they wouldn’t choose to do again.
Of course, creating An Event! is not the sole measure of success for an entertainment endeavor like this. Ultimately it all comes down to dollars and cents, but in that regard, Triller likely accomplished its goals. The event reportedly sold 1.45 million pay-per-view buys and while that number still may not actually cover the costs of an event that featured six high-profile musical acts (The Black Keys, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, E-40, Diplo, and Justin Bieber), a litany of celebrities, extensive pyrotechnics, and a number of other things randomly thrown in, that still registers as the biggest U.S. pay-per-view number that hasn’t involved Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson, or Conor McGregor. Even if Paul-Askren ultimately ran in the red, the raw numbers and cultural cache it produced are more than enough to ensure more of these coming down the pipeline, be they from Triller or someone else. And once these things can start having full crowds at their events, with 50,000 screaming fans there to watch Taylor Swift sing and Jake Paul knock out Dillon Danis, watch out.
Hate it or love it, Triller (or some similar incarnation) is here to stay. Might as well enjoy the ride.
Triller Fight Club Quotes
“They both suck, but at least someone’s going to get hurt.” - Pete Davidson on the main event.
“I got knocked out by Jake Paul. It’s f***ing embarrassing.” - Ben Askren following the loss.
“I’m just too powerful. The cows in Ohio produce a different type of protein and when I’m sitting there bailing hay since a 10-year-old, I’ve just got some real thick s*** in my arms.” - Jake Paul, showing an advanced understanding of boxing promotion.
“Dana White, where my money at?” - Snoop Dogg closing the show out by asking Dana White to pay up on his million dollar bet that Ben Askren would beat Jake Paul.
Jake Paul: Like with Triller itself, hate him or love him, Jake Paul isn’t going anywhere. The former Disney Channel star has shown that he has some ability to box, at least at this level and there is an obvious appetite to watch him.
Frank Mir: It’s odd to put a man who lost a wide unanimous decision in the winners column but here we are. The expectation was that Mir would get run over and instead, the former UFC heavyweight champion hung tough with a real professional boxer.
Pete Davidson: Davidson is not to everyone’s taste and that’s fair, but he shot everyone straight on Saturday and even asked Paul point blank about the sexual assault allegations, though that was cut from the broadcast.
Ben Askren: Askren got paid a bundle so I’m sure he doesn’t care but he did, in fact, get knocked out by a YouTube star who he had been talking mad trash to.
Triller: Though the event was an unqualified success in cultural cache and internet dollars, it seems impossible that the event was a success in real dollars. The number of celebrities, musical acts, personnel, and pyrotechnics involved means this thing could not possibly have turned a profit overall, though again, they may not care about that at all.
Ivan Redkach: The most obvious explanation for what happened in the Redkach bout is that Redkach was getting beat up and feigned an injury, hoping to get a DQ win. This at least was the explanation proffered by the commentary team who absolutely destroyed Redkach as he was getting stretchered out of the ring.
Casual Boxing Fans: The internet’s obsession with finding conspiracies led many people to claim the main event was rigged. Those people are idiots.
Fights to Make
Jake Paul vs. Dillon Danis: Jake Paul will absolutely win this fight, likely in similar fashion, but at least Danis will come in shape and it sets up the eventual Jake Paul-Conor McGregor fight we all know we’re headed towards.