It’s fair to say that Dana White’s push to have Khabib Nurmagomedov defend his UFC lightweight title one last time was almost exclusively to do a rematch with Conor McGregor. From a business perspective, why not? Their first matchup in 2018 was the first ever MMA pay-per-view to exceed two million buys, and the animosity between the two seems more real than manufactured.
So when McGregor was knocked out by Dustin Poirier at UFC 257, dreams of a Khabib rematch were essentially squashed. White revealed to media at the post-fight press conference that signs of Nurmagomedov returning to the Octagon don’t look promising. He later delved into his own belief that a rematch between Khabib and Conor could’ve broken the all-time combat sports mark for pay-per-views.
“[Khabib] hates Conor so I know he wanted Conor to lose, but you know there has to be a little piece of him inside that [wanted to fight him again],” White said. “The [rematch] with him and Conor would’ve been one of the biggest fights ever if not the biggest fight ever.
“So the last few days, the way that [UFC 257] has been trending — you guys had to feel it with your numbers too — our numbers are off the charts this week,” he continued. “I was saying that I felt that Khabib-Conor could be the #3 fight all-time in all of combat sports. Today, I felt like it could be #1. I felt like it could beat McGregor-Mayweather. A piece of him had to want to be a part of a fight that big.”
Now White’s statement about the PPV buys is just the continuation of a known pissing match. Officially, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao did 4.6 million PPV buys in North America, whereas Mayweather vs. McGregor came in at about 4.3 million. So White has been adamant that MayMac outperformed MayPac, and both him and Conor McGregor quarreled with Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza over the numbers. Whatever the case, both shows did over four million domestic buys and that’s astounding.
Would Khabib vs. McGregor more than doubled its sales in a rematch? I suppose we’ll never really know now.