While it’s not surprising that UFC 196 attracted a lot of attention, if Dana White is to be believed, it could be the promotion’s top-selling event of all time.
UFC 196 took place last weekend and saw Nate Diaz defeat Conor McGregor via second-round submission in the evening’s main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. In the co-headliner, Miesha Tate tapped Holly Holm in the fifth frame to capture 135-pound gold.
“Saturday night was amazing for us. We broke so many records,” White said during a Thursday appearance on the ”Max and Marcellus” show on ESPN Radio. “We broke all our records on Saturday night. It was the biggest pay-per-view we ever did. Social media was ridiculous. For the prelims on Fox, we were No. 1 on all broadcasts in cable from 8 to 10 in every major demographic. You name it, we broke the record on Saturday night. It was incredible.”
During the interview, White was asked if the results of the two featured bouts represented a worst-case scenario for the Las Vegas-based promotion. After all, if McGregor had won, there were rumors that he would challenge Robbie Lawler for the welterweight strap at UFC 200, and a Holm victory was supposed to set up a potentially lucrative rematch with Ronda Rousey later this year.
White denied that the unexpected outcomes dampened the atmosphere surrounding a landmark evening. In fact, the UFC boss believes that the card probably raised the sport’s overall profile.
“Think about the zillions of dollars that were spent on Pacquiao-Mayweather. I think that fight actually damaged the sport of boxing,” White said. “Saturday night, it was awesome. We had all these celebrities there. These celebrities are people who’ve done it all, seen it all and been to everything. They were in the back room with me blown away going, ‘I can’t believe what just happened.’ It’s awesome; it’s exciting; it’s fun. That’s what fighting is supposed to be. That’s the way you’re supposed to feel when a fight is over.”
While the promotion does not officially reveal pay-per-view numbers, White hinted at a figure that would put UFC 196 in rarified air.
“These are things that capture people’s imaginations. That’s why the thing does 1.5 million pay-per-view buys because it captures the imagination of fight fans,” he said. “And then when it lives up to the billing, when it lives up what it was supposed to be, nobody looked disappointed on Saturday night.
If UFC 196 did indeed draw 1.5 million buys, it would not quite be the organization’s top-selling event. That honor would remain with UFC 100, which attracted an estimated 1.6 million viewers to pay-per-view. Only nine previous cards have reportedly surpassed the 1 million mark since UFC 33 in 2001.