As expected, last weekend’s (Sat., October 6, 2018) UFC 229 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, has set a new standard for pay-per-view.
According to a report from MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer revealed that UFC 229 and its Khabib vs. McGregor main event brought in somewhere in the neighborhood of just below 2.4 million PPV buys. The previous record was held by August 2016’s UFC 202, which drew 1.5 million for the anticipated Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz II.
The fight drew well over the originally teased 2 million, but could not surpass 3 million as Dana White claimed during the build-up. The monster numbers were obviously due to the return of Conor McGregor. “The Notorious” returned from a nearly two-year layoff to challenge Khabib for the title. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying he is the UFC’s biggest PPV draw ever by a wide margin.
The numbers broke down to 1.9 million buys on traditional, home-bought pay-per-view and another 470-480,000 streaming online. Those figures are not official. The UFC does not release those to the public. However, they will supposedly be confirmed within months according to Meltzer.
By Far The Biggest Ever
UFC 229 was billed as the biggest fight in mixed martial arts history. From a business point of view, it delivered and then some. The event was sent into overdrive with McGregor’s infamous Brooklyn bus attack where he threw a dolly through a bus Nurmagomedov was on this spring. McGregor was arrested, jailed, and later reached a plea deal. The footage of the attack was used to promote the fight.
It worked, and the UFC now has a new record-holder. McGregor has now headlined the top three PPV cards in UFC (and therefore, MMA) history. His first match-up with Diaz at 2016’s UFC 196 is the third-highest grossing card in company history.
The numbers suggest that the already-discussed rematch between ‘The Eagle’ and ‘The Notorious’ is by far the biggest fight they could currently book. Many fans and media members may not agree with that due to the one-sided nature of the first match and the insane brawl that followed.
But the UFC doesn’t make fights to appease people’s opinions. Khabib vs. Conor II has the potential to set another new record for buys. It could certainly push 3 million. The buyrate also shows the polarizing nature of UFC pay-per-view business as it stands. The PPV model as a whole was highly criticized during a down 2018 on pay TV most of this year.
UFC 229 changed that trend for now. Fans are certainly willing to come out in droves to pay for the major stars, but need a big star to do so. Last month’s UFC 228 headlined by Tyron Woodley sold 130,000 buys.