Please note that as the UFC doesn’t release details of pay-per-view buys, all of the numbers in this article are estimates based on the numbers reported by the excellent Dave Meltzer in his Wrestling Observer newsletter and reprinted on MMAPayout.com.
There are a few different ways to measure who the biggest draw is in UFC history. The obvious one would be the total number of buys a card draws while a fighter is the main event or co-main event. By this metric the winner is Georges St. Pierre. GSP has drawn around 10.5 million buys over 14 fights, which is an impressive average of 750,000 buys per event. A few other legendary fighters have numbers almost as impressive as GSP’s in their own way.
Anderson Silva has drawn either 9.3 milion buys, or around 10.5 million if you stretch the rules to include UFC 200. He managed that over 17 or 18 events respectively, for an average of 550,000 or 585,000 buys per event.
Brock Lesnar actually has a higher average than GSP; he has drawn around 7.7 million buys over 8 events, for an average of 970,000 buys per event.
Ronda Rousey, who many people call the biggest star in UFC history, has drawn around 5.1 million buys in 7 events, for an average of around 730,000 buys per event.
So how does Conor McGregor compare against these titans? Well, in Conor’s first 12 months of headlining pay-per-views, he brought in around 3.5 million buys. From three events.
McGregor’s first three pay-per-views drew more buys than GSP’s best three ever.
McGregor’s worst three drew more buys than Ronda Rousey’s best three.
McGregor’s 3.5 million buys from July 2015 to March 2016 was more than the entire UFC managed in 2014, which was estimated at around 3 - 3.2 million buys. Let that sink in for a second. McGregor’s first three pay-per-views brought in more buys than the entire roster did in 2014.
That’s not the craziest part. Over the last 12 months, McGregor has fought four times. He won the featherweight title from Jose Aldo in December 2015, lost a welterweight bout to Nate Diaz in March 2016, then won the rematch in August 2016, before finally winning the Lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez in November 2016.
If we go by the preliminary buy prediction for UFC 205, which is around 1.6 million buys, Conor McGregor has drawn an estimated six million buys in a 12 month period. Remember, the entire UFC roster drew 3-3.2m in 2014. Conor McGregor drew double that, on his own, in 12 months.
While GSP holds the record for the most PPV buys in total, Conor holds basically every other PPV record. McGregor has drawn an insane 6.85 million buys in just fifteen months. Remember Brock Lesnar’s incredible 970,000 buys per event average? Yeah, Conor’s is around 1.35 million per event.
2010 was the UFC's best year ever. It had 8.8 million buys, and had GSP and Brock Lesnar at the height of their popularity. Conor McGregor is going to draw more PPV buys in 2016 than the two biggest draws in UFC history did in the UFC's best year ever... Combined. In 2010 GSP and Lesnar fought 4 times and drew around 3.5m buys. Conor is on track to draw 4.5 million buys in 2016 from just three fights.
Conor McGregor not only draws better than GSP and Lesnar, he draws better than them both combined.
For perspective, Ronda Rousey’s best PPV ever is estimated to have drawn 1.1 million buys. The gulf between Conor and everyone else is massive. Not even Brock Lesnar in his prime was able to consistently post the numbers McGregor has. No one has ever drawn 1.5 million buys in two events back to back.
In fact, no one else has ever drawn 1.5 million buys twice, period. Conor McGregor just drew more than that three times in a row.
The only card to break 1.5 million buys without Conor McGregor on it was UFC 100. That’s right, the only event that can keep up with Conor McGregor’s PPV numbers is the biggest UFC event of all time. And you can bet he’s got that number in his sights as well.
He’s not here to take part, he’s here to take over.