In a stretch of three weeks, the most significant fight that has ever included a UFC athlete, and the most important middleweight boxing match of the generation, will be staged inside the same arena.
Suitors from across the world pushed for both bouts, but in the end the same man brought both Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor on Aug. 26 and Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin on Sept. 16 to gold-tinged T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“There is a cachet attached to putting on an event here,” said Richard Sturm, the somewhat reclusive president and chief operating officer of MGM Resorts Entertainment and Sports. “Las Vegas’ infrastructure is such that there’s no other city in the world like this. Gaming … everything is at the tip of your fingers.
“You come here and have the best restaurants, the best nightclubs, the best accommodations, and everything is together. Everything is easy — for the promoter and for the person attending the event. Close to the airport, a short drive from California. It’s experiential, not only with the event, but the 100 other things to do around it.”
Madison Square Garden in New York was said to have placed its most substantial bid yet for a boxing match, and AT&T Stadium in Texas and Dodger Stadium also sought the bout between unbeaten three-belt middleweight champion Golovkin and Mexico’s most popular fighter, Alvarez, a former two-division champion.
Fight promoter Oscar De La Hoya said he favored Las Vegas because of the potential to sell tens of thousands of seats to closed-circuit viewing parties at the 10 MGM properties along the Strip, along with what he referred to as other “perks.”
AEG, a joint-venture partner with arena operator MGM Resorts, also promised to promote the Alvarez-Golovkin pay-per-view in each of its venues worldwide.
De La Hoya said recently that he anticipates the energy of the Alvarez-Golovkin action inside the 20,000-seat arena will ignite a “wildfire” of interest that could take subsequent meetings between the pound-for-pound stars to larger stadiums.
AEG struck an exclusive agreement with the UFC earlier this year, and although the fight between unbeaten former pound-for-pound No. 1 Mayweather (49-0) and record-setting UFC lightweight champion McGregor (21-3) is a boxing match, that relationship and Mayweather’s interest in fighting in Las Vegas smoothed the process.
“It’s the nicest arena in town and the biggest,” UFC president Dana White said. “It’s perfect for this fight.”
Sturm says there are reasons arenas are the best choices for fights.
“Seeing the fight in a more intimate setting allows the promoters to charge a higher ticket price,” Sturm said a few days before De La Hoya announced ringside seats would be priced at $5,000.
“When you’re in a stadium, you can’t charge that. Exciting as it is for 80,000 in a building, we create a spectacle. In a stadium, the people in the ring look like ants.”
Sturm has a permanent ace in the hole, too, knowing that high-rolling gamblers will flock to the fight capital not only to attend the fight, but to wager millions of dollars at casino tables during fight week.
Knowing that revenue is attached, Sturm’s site fee on big fights routinely overwhelms competitors.
“We are able to take care of people in a way they can’t be taken care of elsewhere,” he said. “It’s what differentiates us. Nobody can compare to us. Fights bring in a tremendous demographic for us and it’s been that way for as long as we’ve been doing fights in Las Vegas.
“These kinds of fights are tremendous revenue-producing events, and without going into numbers, I think you can imagine … the phones have been ringing off the hook from people who want to come in — people who are customers and want to be here.”
The quality of this summer’s blockbusters is expected to be dramatically different. Mayweather-McGregor is all about established personalities meeting in a unique event.
“One is a great, great boxing event that everyone has waited for,” Sturm said, referring to Alvarez-Golovkin. “The fight on the 26th is more like a spectacle. That event is bringing two sports together for the first time in a fight of this magnitude. You don’t have to be a fight fan to want to attend this. It’s a wider demographic. Everybody will want to see this because it’s so different. Both fighters are the best in their fields. That becomes special.”
Although he is expecting a crush of celebrities at each event, and for the existing live-gate record at T-Mobile Arena to be shattered by both, Sturm said he intends to avoid the ticket calamity that befell Mayweather’s 2015 victory over Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand. Only a limited number of tickets were made available to the public for that fight, and even those weren’t distributed until the 11th hour.
“We want a good amount of tickets to be accessible to the public,” Sturm said.