Conor McGregor is easily the most marketable star the sport of mixed martial arts has ever seen. In fact, nobody else even comes close.
Here are the top-grossing MMA PPVs of all-time:
- UFC 229: Conor vs Khabib – 2,400,000 Buyrate.
- UFC 202: Conor vs Diaz II – 1,600,000 Buyrate.
- UFC 196: Conor vs Diaz I – 1,317,000 Buyrate.
- UFC 205: Conor vs Alvarez – 1,300,000 Buyrate.
The above stats don’t even include his lucrative boxing match against Floyd “Money” Mayweather. Conor took UFC PPVs to a whole new level.
Let’s take a look at some of the top-selling UFC PPVs that didn’t involve Conor, however. Here are the highest-grossing UFC PPVs ever without Conor McGregor:
UFC 251 – Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal – 1,300,000 Buyrate
Last month saw the highest-grossing UFC PPV the company has ever done without Conor McGregor. There are a few theories as to why this card did so well on PPV. One is that with the ongoing global pandemic, many people were unable to go to sports bars or gather together to watch the fights as a group. This led to more people purchasing and watching the PPV at their own home and watching it with just people they live with or on their own.
Even without the pandemic, this card would have done well on PPV. We’ll never know just how well, however. It was a stacked show from top to bottom. In addition to Usman vs Masvidal for the welterweight belt, Alexander Volkanovski also defended the featherweight belt in a tight clash with Max Holloway. Peter Yan also won the vacant bantamweight belt by finishing Jose Aldo.
UFC 100 – Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir, GSP vs Thiago Alves, 1,300,000 Buyrate
At the time it happened, UFC 100 was the biggest PPV the UFC had ever done. It featured two of the biggest stars the sport had ever seen at the time in Georges St. Pierre and Brock Lesnar. Both would come away from the show with victories too. GSP defeated top welterweight contender Thiago Alves and Lesnar avenged a previous loss to Frank Mir.
At a time before Conor McGregor or even Ronda Rousey, UFC 100 was a big deal and a huge financial success.
UFC 116 – Brock Lesnar vs Shane Carwin – 1,160,000 Buyrate
8 days shy of the 1-year anniversary of UFC 100, the company presented another blockbuster summer card. This time Brock Lesnar would look to defend the UFC Heavyweight Championship against the then-undefeated Shane Carwin.
Anyone who watched the 1st round would have assumed that Carwin was going to walk away from the fight the new champion but that’s not what happened. Carwin gassed himself out from trying to finish the champ and made himself vulnerable. Lesnar ended up submitting him with an arm-triangle choke.
UFC 207 – Ronda Rousey vs Amanda Nunes – 1,100,000 Buyrate
Over a million fans put down their hard-earned money to see if Ronda Rousey could recapture the UFC bantamweight championship at UFC 207. It was Rousey’s first fight in 13 months. Her previous bout having been her mammoth upset loss to Holly Holm at UFC 194.
Rousey would only last 40 seconds in there with the hard-hitting Lioness that is Amanda Nunes. She would have received a huge payday for her efforts, however. This was Rousey’s last fight. Meanwhile, Amanda Nunes is still knocking out challengers years later.
UFC 194 – Ronda Rousey vs Holly Holm – 1,100,000
Ronda Rousey’s two highest-grossing fights were the only two bouts she ever lost. Her upset loss to Holly Holm at UFC 194 in Australia is the 5th highest-grossing non-Conor McGregor UFC PPV of all-time. The fact that Rousey’s PPV buyrates were increasing at the time she left the sport may signify her popularity was growing at the same time her opponents were figuring out how to beat her.
There is nothing that says Rousey couldn’t return to the sport one day. If she does, her fight would likely draw the biggest buyrate of her career. She’s got offers coming in from Hollywood and pro-wrestling, however, so her return is probably a longshot at best.
One thing that is clear from looking at these numbers, however, is that the UFC lives and dies on stars. The company’s top star of all time was Conor McGregor. #2 was Brock Lesnar and #3 was Ronda Rousey. If we go further down this list we find names like Tito Ortiz, Georges St. Pierre, and a few others popping up with regularity. Nobody else has done numbers like Conor, Lesnar, or Rousey, however.
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