UFC President Dana White shut down speculation that the new ESPN deal was the reason why Brock Lesnar and Conor McGregor were not fighting.
Lesnar was expected to challenge heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, while McGregor was expected to face Donald Cerrone earlier this year. Both never came to fruition, with the speculation being that the new ESPN deal was the main reason why. As per the new deal, UFC pay-per-views (PPV) are now available exclusively on ESPN+, which means buys will go down significantly while the promotion isn’t under any real pressure to deliver big numbers.
For cash cows like Lesnar and McGregor, that was a big problem, with the former reportedly wanting a flat fee to fight Cormier. However, White explained why that was not the case:
“Completely not true, that’s absolutely false,” White said in a recent interview with ESPN. “And if you really look at when we were on pay-per-view, everybody was talking about how the pay-per-view business is dying. Nobody could pull numbers anymore.
“Really? We were still pulling five to seven million pay-per-view buys a year. You can’t listen to any of this noise. That’s not why Brock Lesnar didn’t fight. Brock Lesnar got a better deal [at WWE] is basically what happened. Conor McGregor. What did I say leading up to the Mayweather-McGregor fight?
“How many times has he fought since then? Once. Conor is in a very unique position as a fighter. He has tons of money, his whiskey business is off the charts. Conor now has the ability to be very calculated, sit back and play the game how he wants to. There’s so much more to this than people speculate.“
As for whether the new model hurts the rest of the UFC roster? That is also not the case, as White claims every fighter will make their money:
“Pay-per-views for the fighters? Not an issue,” White added. “All these guys are going to make their money. Believe me, we’re much smarter than that.“
The full interview can be watched below: