The UFC brass was looking to make a grand entrance on the biggest stage in professional sports history, and boy did they deliver.
Even with a pair of big-name matchups getting the axe at the eleventh hour, UFC 205 boasted a stacked card from top to bottom for its first trip into Madison Square Garden. And from Yoel Romero’s vicious flying-knee to Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson’s instant classic, the UFC’s long-awaited New York introduction ended up being one of its most entertaining shows of the year.
Of course, it was one man’s quest for greatness that allowed the UFC to break ”every record in UFC history,” per Dana White. While that may have been a bit of hyperbole on the president’s part, Conor McGregor’s historic victory to become a two-division world champion produced some incredible numbers for the company.
Pay-per-view record: We’re still waiting on reliable industry estimates, but White already confirmed that 205 has broken the company’s pay-per-view record — approximately 1.65 million buys for UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2. My prediction back when McGregor vs. Alvarez was announced as the headliner (1.7-1.9 million buys) still sounds about right. As MMAJunkie.com recently revealed, pay-per-view remains the UFC’s #1 revenue stream.
*Update: The UFC has confirmed that its commercial pay-per-view sales were the highest performing in history.
Live-gate record: The UFC absolutely smashed MSG’s previous best-selling gate, bringing in $17.7 million in ticket sales. The old record was $13.5 million for a 1999 boxing card headlined by Lennox Lewis vs. Evander Holyfield. In the process, the UFC also broke its own gate record — roughly $12 million for UFC 129: St-Pierre vs. Shields at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Ratings record: Fox Sports 1’s preliminary card ratings are still unknown, but White said that it would “make no sense if we didn’t break that one too” given the success of the pay-per-view main card. The previous high for FS1 prelims belongs to UFC 194: McGregor vs. Mendes, which pulled in an average of 1,931,000 viewers.
*Update: The 205 prelims actually finished third all time with 1,801,000 viewers, though 1,106,000 viewers for the 18-49 demographic was an FS1 record.
A few more big-money figures on the event …
$10,000: The per-minute curfew fee Madison Square Garden typically imposes for events running past 11 p.m. EST. With 205 running until around 1:30 a.m., that would equate to a $1.5 million loss for the UFC. White was not aware of said fee at the post-fight press conference, which hopefully means the UFC has been spared.
20,427: The attendance at Madison Square Garden on Saturday — a domestic UFC record.
$1.5 million: The amount New York State collected from the UFC’s ticket sales, given their 8.5% sales tax on the $17.7 million gate (coincidentally, the same amount as the UFC’s potential MSG curfew fee).
The sales tax also applies for tickets sold second-hand, which were going for around $1,000 a pop during fight week, meaning the state likely raked in several million dollars in total. As you probably already guessed, this re-sale ticket average also set a new UFC record.
$8 million: A conservative estimate on economic activity in NYC generated from UFC 205 outside of the ticket-sales tax (hotels, bars, restaurants, etc.), going off a study conducted by HR&A Advisors in 2013. The live gate estimate was only $12.2 million in the study, so it’s fair to assume the economic boost for a $17.7 million event would be several million dollars more.
$40 million: McGregor’s reported earnings for 2016 after he cashes his third massive pay-per-view check of the year. The two-weight champ receives an undisclosed cut of each unit sold, meaning he should be getting his biggest PPV payout to date for UFC 205 — somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million. While New York does not disclose fight purses, there’s no way McGregor got less than the $3 million he was guaranteed for UFC 202.
14 billion: Social media impressions — the most in UFC history.
Where McGregor goes from here is the question on everyone’s mind. Does he try to defend both of his belts, focus on his lightweight strap, go for a third title, or take a “money fight” with no gold on the line?
Before he goes down any of these roads, there’s actually another opponent the Irishman will have to conquer …