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Conor McGregor's UFC return expected to be record-setting US$200m fight
[NEW YORK] Conor McGregor's return to the octagon has UFC executives expecting the most lucrative fight by far in the promotion company's quarter-century history.
McGregor's two-year hiatus from mixed martial arts, which began with a disagreement over money and included a lucrative dip into boxing, ends Saturday night when he fights undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov in Las Vegas.
The lightweight title fight is on pace to crack US$200 million in gross revenue. That's based on what UFC President Dana White expects to be 3 million pay-per-view buys.
That would shatter the previous UFC record of 1.65 million buys, from a McGregor fight in 2016, and rank it third among boxing matches - behind only Floyd Mayweather's 2015 mega-fight against Manny Pacquiao, and Mayweather's 2017 bout versus McGregor. With a US$64.99 price tag, 3 million buys would be US$195 million in gross pay-per-view revenue.
The fight has sold over US$16 million worth of tickets, which is the second-highest total in UFC history, according to a person with knowledge of the figures. It also sold over US$1 million in sponsorships, to companies including Monster Energy, Harley-Davidson and beer brand Modelo, said the person, who requested anonymity because the details are private.
One of combat sports's most recognisable - and controversial - athletes, McGregor's return to UFC once looked in doubt. He last fought in 2016 and has since publicly demanded better pay to fight. He also cashed a reported US$130 million check for his first professional boxing match, a payment larger than his career MMA fight earnings. In April, McGregor was arrested in New York after he threw a metal hand truck at a bus carrying a group of UFC fighters, injuring at least one.
McGregor has said in the past that he wouldn't fight again in UFC until he was given an equity piece in the company, which in 2016 sold for US$4 billion. While that hasn't happened, he will get a cut of pay-per-view sales, a concession given only to UFC's most popular fighters, plus a hefty appearance fee, the person familiar said. McGregor said Thursday that he expects to make around US$50 million.