UFC 229 has been touted as the biggest event in promotion history for several weeks now. Dana White just increased the hype, adding approximately 1 million pay-per-view buys to his original projection.
“I told you guys we were trending at close to 2 million pay-per-view buys,” White told ESPN. “We’re closer to 3 million now. We’re trending close to 3 million pay-per-view buys for this fight.”
UFC 229 takes place on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The focal point of the event, of course, is a lightweight championship clash between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor. McGregor has established himself as the biggest star in the UFC and only raised his profile when he faced Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match last summer.
According to White, Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor is even surpassing that bout in some metrics.
“This thing’s breaking every record we’ve ever had as far as numbers go,” White said. “If you look at Mayweather-McGregor, the first episode of Embedded in 24 hours did 800,000 views. This one’s at 1.7 million in 24 hours….I could just go on for days with numbers and how it’s scaling. It’s gonna be big.”
Much of the intrigue surrounds the MMA return of McGregor, who hasn’t competed in the Octagon since November 2016. Nurmagomedov looks to be as dangerous an adversary as the Irishman has faced during his UFC tenure. That’s a big part of the appeal, according to White.
“Obviously Conor’s been gone for a couple years and he’s coming back and taking on the biggest, nastiest, toughest guy out there right now. Undefeated, 26-0, never lost a round. Khabib is the guy,” White said. “Conor is so big and famous and people love watching him fight because this is the stuff he does. He goes right after everybody. He doesn’t care. If you’re a fight fan you love it.”
McGregor’s Irish fan base always seems to travel well when he fights in Las Vegas, and White claims this weekend will be no different.
“Massive ticket sales from the U.K. and Ireland,” he said. “This is also the largest gate in Vegas we’ve ever done and the second biggest gate ever in UFC history. This thing’s gonna come in at $17 million. [Madison Square Garden] was $18 million.”
White added that UFC 229 is in such high demand that nobody was comped tickets for the event.
“This is the biggest fight we’ve ever done. We don’t ever sell the Zuffa section, the section behind me. No fighters got tickets to this fight,” he said. “Daniel Cormier will be there. He bought three tickets. I bought tickets. [UFC owner] Ari Emanuel bought tickets. Everybody paid for their tickets. This is the first time ever we split the media section in half. We sold half of that section and the other half is media. Never done that before either.”