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While the headliner itself was something of a disappointment in terms of action, UFC 251 was nonetheless a massive pay-per-view success.
According to a report from The Athletic, Saturday’s event did 1.3 million buys on ESPN+ for a card topped by a welterweight championship clash between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal. That even surpasses Conor McGregor’s return at UFC 246 in January, which drew approximately 1 million pay-per-view buys to the streaming platform.
UFC pay-per-view events have generated 1.3 million buys or more on only five occasions. McGregor’s submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov set the record with 2.4 million buys at UFC 229 in October 2018. Other blockbuster events include UFC 202 (1.6 million buys), UFC 196 (1.317 million) and UFC 205 (1.3 million). Outside of Saturday’s UFC 251 card, all of the other aforementioned events featured McGregor atop the marquee.
It’s important to note that pay-per-view buys are not officially disclosed by the promotion or by ESPN, so figures are based on industry estimates.
The success of UFC 251 can likely be attributed to the presence of Masvidal, who emerged as one of the organization’s biggest stars during a 2019 campaign that culminated with him capturing the “BMF” title against Nate Diaz at Madison Square Garden in New York this past November. Masvidal accepted the fight against Usman on six days’ notice after original foe Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and dropped a unanimous decision to “The Nigerian Nightmare” at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
The card included two other title fights, as Alexander Volkanovski retained the featherweight crown with a split verdict over Max Holloway, and Petr Yan claimed the vacant bantamweight belt with a fifth-round TKO of Jose Aldo.
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