Dubai a 'turning point' in the world of live sports with Global Titans Fight Series

World's first NFT sports event set for May 14 on Burj Al Arab helipad with Floyd Mayweather to headline

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Organisers of a proposed new combat-sports series that aims to launch next month in Dubai say the event marks a “pivotal moment” in the future of live sports and entertainment.

The Global Titans Fight Series, billed as a multi-event production to be staged at notable locations around the world, is scheduled to begin on May 14 on the Burj Al Arab helipad, with retired boxing star Floyd Mayweather slated to headline. The unbeaten former five-time world champion, 45, takes on fellow American Don Moore.

Entitled “The Showcase in the Skies of Dubai”, the series’ inaugural event features UFC great Anderson Silva and intends to also host a female boxing world title bout.

Organisers say the all-boxing fight night represents the world’s first NFT (non-fungible token) pay-per-view sports event, meaning fans who purchase a NFT will gain access to the live stream and exclusive content.

The ticket – a 3D digital crystal design in the shape of the Burj Al Arab - also serves as a collectible NFT that can be traded. The Dubai show is available through regular pay-per-view and linear TV, and will be broadcast on four continents.

“This is the pivotal moment in time where Web2 transitions to Web3 in live sports and live entertainment,” Robert Quirke, CEO of Global Titans co-founders ROQU Media, told The National.

“With introducing Web3 or NFTs into live entertainment and the live-streaming industry, it's so much better for fans and for consumers because they actually get content that they own, and they have assets, which they own. And they’re also given a utility – in this case to watch the live stream.

“When you go to purchase a NFT you physically own that asset, so the fans are getting equity in that event or show. With Dubai, they’re getting their collectible NFT, exclusive video content, images from fight night, which nobody else in the world will have, and lots of other content.

“This is just a natural technological evolution of the ticketing journey for this new generation of people coming up and who live in this digital crypto world. I would say that this is very much the turning point where this becomes more prolific into this industry. It’s very, very special stuff.”

Quirke said the introduction of NFTs into live sport and entertainment would impact major sports, broadcasting, and live-streaming companies significantly.

Robert Quirke, CEO of Global Titans co-founders ROQU Media. Antonie Robertson / The National

“This is now a highly secure blockchain-driven access system that allows these companies to: one, be more secure with their content, but two, also give their fans and their customers a lot more. The point here is to give choice to the market."

The Dubai event will be open to attend to only 40 spectators, with Quirke saying the limited number ensures those watching live on the helipad will be provided the best possible experience. The Irishman, who added that numerous celebrities from sport and music will be present, said the emirate constituted an obvious destination for the series opener.

“Dubai is a tremendous crossroads of the world and an incredibly diverse, interesting, busy location to visit,” Quirke said. “And after the recent Expo [2020], it really created an incredible buzz and atmosphere here. Of course, you have the jewel of the city, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel, which everybody in the world knows or would recognise.

“We wanted to start in a place where it hasn't been done before, instantly recognisable, and where people will look back on in time and say, ‘Wow that was something really special’. You can imagine, 10pm at night, lights come on, music plays, drones are flying around the helipad, all the lasers come on, the fighters walk out - it's going to be incredible.

"It's a spectacular location to film and we’re very lucky to have opportunity to do it. Yes, there’s huge technical challenges with the location, but nothing we can't overcome. It’s all set. Everything is ready to go.”

While Mayweather, undefeated in 50 professional bouts, tops the bill against the unbeaten Moore (18-0-1), former UFC middleweight champion Silva faces current UAE Warriors lightweight title-holder Bruno Machado.

Meanwhile, former two-time world champion Badou Jack goes up against Egypt’s Hany Atiyo, with ex-WBC female lightweight champion Delfine Persoon expected to compete for another title. Organisers say the Belgian's opponent will be confirmed this week.

On Mayweather’s presence at the head of the card, Quirke said: “Floyd is amazing: greatest of all time; 50 undefeated fights; greatest fight record in history; one of the greatest defences in boxing combined with one of the greatest offensive and strategic techniques.

“And he's great to work with as well. He understands the fans are really important and he definitely wants to put on a great, great event for them. This is not as sparring session, it’s a fight. I know Don is going after him and Floyd is up for that. He wants the challenge. These people are competitors.

“But having Floyd is super because he’s a world-famous icon in boxing. There's no better person to begin this incredible journey of Global Titans.”

Quirke, who described pay-per-view sales thus far as “phenomenal”, said Dubai and Abu Dhabi would play a “huge role” in Global Titans going forward, with more events in the region within the next year "for sure".

The series, which aims to offer both boxing and mixed martial arts, plans to stage fight nights at Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, the Pyramids in Egypt, and Table Mountain in South Africa.

As to the programme beyond May 14, Quirke said: “There’s certainly plans afoot and certainly conversations that are happening. There are fights we want to see in the world and that fans want to see. I’m not saying this is confirmed; what I'm saying is there are iconic fighters that should face off.

"I would love to do a fight with some of the real heavyweight stars in the world, for example Deontay Wilder versus Anthony Joshua. But to do it in Africa. To go back to [Joshua's] roots in Nigeria, stage an incredible fight out there.

“Vegas is a super location, but there’s something raw and visceral about going back to roots; it brings a lot of emotion, a lot of energy, a lot of passion. It's not just about money in Vegas, it's about something much bigger than that.

“So those type of events would be coming down the road. And, of course, there are some legends in MMA that we would like to work with as well. Those talks are ongoing. There are definitely plans afoot for big, big fights coming down the line.”

Updated: April 28, 2022, 1:38 PM