MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 1 – Conor McGregor returned and headlined biggest PPV in UFC history

December 31, 2018

The return of Conor McGregor to the Octagon to main event the biggest UFC PPV in its history is the number 1 MMA biz story of this year.

The event drew a reported 2.4 million PPV buys and was mired in controversy for its ugly ending with Khabib Nurmogomedov jumping the cage and going after Dillon Danis and Conor McGregor taking a swing at one of Khabib’s teammates. The event drew 1.9 million traditional PPV and an estimated 470K-480K streaming buys per Dave Meltzer’s report this past October.

McGregor’s return and storyline began in April 2018 when he got on a plane from Ireland to fly to New York to go after Khabib at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. As we know, he threw a dolly at the bus Khabib was on which led to his arrest. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing which shows us that the justice system can be bought.

The criminal activity led to the disruption of a UFC PPV event and 3 fights being taken off the card at UFC 223.

Yet, this added to the story for the UFC as the bus attack was played up in promoting UFC 229.

The press conference between Khabib and Conor included McGregor promoting his new whiskey, Proper No. Twelve as well as personal attacks by both. McGregor also took a shot at Khabib’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz in calling him a terrorist.

The personal attacks did not sit well with Khabib as it was clear it was extra motivation for him. He dominated their fight and submitted McGregor, held on to it a little longer than normal and then spat on him. Then the aforementioned melee ensued.

While most MMA weirdos thought this was the norm, it was a bad look for the sport. But the oddity of combat sports is that despite the after-fight brawl, the rematch will do big money.

At this point, its not clear what will become of the two. McGregor signed a six fight deal to fight in the UFC. Khabib has been on a championship tour of sorts after his fight but his purse from the event is still held up by the NAC due to his actions.

Our review of the event is here and my thoughts about Chickens Coming Home to Roost.

The event was the biggest PPV in the company’s history and it highlights the drawing power of McGregor. The concern will be what happens if McGregor goes on a losing streak. He still has drawing power and the charisma to bring in the mainstream. But if he loses a Khabib rematch, a Tony Ferguson fight and/or a Max Holloway return bout (all fights seem possible in 2019), we could see some problems with the selling of McGregor.

Still, McGregor’s drawing power is strong and he has devout fans that follow him. He came back from the Mayweather loss with the same swagger as before. Can he continue the same after Khabib? Likely.

10. MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 10 – The UFC Antitrust Lawsuit rolls on

9. MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 9 – NLRB denies Leslie Smith claims against Zuffa

8. MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 8 – Golden Boy promotes first MMA event

7. MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 7 – DAZN enters sports streaming market

6. MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 6 – Josh Barnett “wins” at USADA arbitration, but still leaves promotion

5. MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 5 – PFL debuts

4. MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 4 – ONE making moves, signs media deal with Turner

3. MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 3 – UFC signs media rights deal with ESPN

2.  MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 2 – Jon Jones returns to the UFC with controversy

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