It may have taken a few flung water bottles to put it over the top, but Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor look to have set the all-time UFC pay-per-view buys record for their fight at UFC 202.
According to Dave Meltzer at MMAFighting.com, the Aug. 20 show sold 1.65 million pay-per-view buys, just edging out both the first McGregor-Diaz fight and UFC 100 which did approximately 1.6 million buys each.
At the press conference the Wednesday before the fight, Diaz got up to leave after McGregor showed up about 30 minutes late, this resulted in insults and plastic bottles of water being hurled across the room by Diaz’s camp and returned by McGregor.
The fight was originally scheduled for UFC 200, a show anointed by the company and many fans to be the biggest in history. The fight was scrapped after McGregor refused to attend a press conference promoting the event, but was eventually rebooked for UFC 202. A revolving door of replacement main events for UFC 200 were named beginning with Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones, followed by Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt, until Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes eventually settled in the slot as the top names on the marquee that night. UFC 200 ended up doing about 1.2 million buys.
The second fight from the top for UFC 202 was Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira. UFC 196 had a stronger co-main event of a Bantamweight Title fight between Holly Holm, fresh off of knocking out Ronda Rousey in another million buy-plus fight taking on Miesha Tate.
McGregor narrowly defeated Diaz by majority decision to even the score with Diaz. Looking at these numbers, a third fight is a certainty, but now both fighters will have even more negotiating leverage.
Hiscoe’s Analysis: This is an impressive and surprising number for a lot of reasons. First, and this is the least objective measure, but the buzz for the show did not feel record-breaking at all and didn’t compare at all to the first fight until the water bottle throwing started. Both men were very complimentary of each other in interviews leading up to the fight and there was the sense that both were treating it as a payday rather than a grudge waiting to be settled. While the events at the press conference likely put it over the top to set the all-time record, it was likely going to do close to that without it so this is a lesson that “buzz” and gut feelings towards hype are not reliable predictors of pay-per-view success.
This fight was also going against the Summer Olympics, an event that one would think would pull away some pay-per-view buyers, but clearly didn’t have a significant negative effect. Finally, the UFC 202 card had a weaker undercard than UFC 196 did. Johnson vs. Teixeira was a big fight for ardent UFC fans but Holly Holm had much more mainstream appeal after beating Rousey last year. This was evidenced again with the surprisingly high rating for her UFC on Fox fight in July. Holm vs. Tate did likely contribute to the big number for UFC 196 but the appetite to see Diaz and McGregor fight clearly grew from March to August.
Also worthy of consideration is how this would have played out had Diaz-McGregor been on UFC 200 as originally planned. There’s the chance that it could have approached 2 million buys or there’s the chance that it would have done around the same and the UFC 200 milestone didn’t mean much to the average fan. Either way, UFC probably came out ahead as they had two shows that totaled for about 2.8 million buys rather than one massive show and then no big main event for UFC 202 that would’ve done a typical 250-300k buys.
The big lesson from the entire Diaz-McGregor saga is that people will pay when there’s a fight they want to see. Championships, milestone numbered shows, TV competition, and undercards aren’t important when you have the right fight that the people want to see.
THURSDAY NOTEBOOK ITEMS…
-Ian McCall will be left without a dance partner again this weekend as opponent Ray Borg had to pull out of their fight due to illness. McCall was also scheduled to fight at UFC 201 but Justin Scoggins had to pull out due to weight cutting difficulties.
-Due to the cancellation of that fight, C.B. Dollaway vs. Francimar Barroso will move from Fight Pass to the FS1 prelims.
-Shane Carwin announced his intentions to return to fighting to The Underground. He agreed to terms of release with UFC and will look for fights outside the organization.
-Gian Villante vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima has been book for UFC 205 from New York according to de Lima’s Instagram.
Contrato assinado, próxima luta confirmada! Dia 12/11 enfrentarei Gian Villante no UFC 205, primeiro da organização que acontecerá em Nova York, no Madison Square Garden. Satisfação total fazer parte desse momento histórico! Bora trabalhar pesado que logo mais tem porrada comendo solta no octógono. OSS! #mma #011mmateam #ufc #ufc203 #esmagapezao #mvpsports #pizzacrek #pizzacrekusa #saopaulo #brasil #brazil #mixedmartialarts #gopezao #detonapezao #esmagapezao #usa #lasvegas #psicologia #psicologianoesporte #psicologia011 #cisbe #americantopteam #att #familia011 #zeroonze #sportfisio #leopoldoleao #ufc203 #newyork #ny #newyork #novaiorque #madisonsquaregarden
–Abel Trujillo is injured and has pulled out of his Sept. 17 fight with Evan Dunham. Former WSOF featherweight champion Rick Glenn will take his place for the show taking place in Hidalgo, Texas.
Check out this fight between Travis Browne and Brendan Schaub from UFC 181.