This weekend brought us another high-drama episode from the world’s greatest Mixed Martial Arts organization, the UFC. UFC 276 was headlined by New Zealand’s Israel Adesanya, one of the biggest draws in the company today. Oddschecker, which compares odds and free offers on UFC matchups, had made The Last Stylebender a huge favorite for his clash and he lived up to the billing, comfortably retaining his Middleweight Championship. The fight unfortunately was somewhat of a snoozefest, with his opponent Jared Cannonier simply overmatched. Despite the result drawing boos from the Las Vegas crowd, the champion remains undefeated at middleweight, with his only loss coming at the hands of light-heavyweight Jan Błachowicz last March.
In the co-main event, Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski proved that he is the man to beat at featherweight. He bloodied and battered former champ, Max Holloway, en route to a shutout unanimous decision victory. The win brought a definitive ending to their trilogy, which The Great won 3-0, despite some arduous judging in the second fight, with many fans and pundits believing the Hawaiian did enough to get the nod.
There were wins elsewhere for Alex Pereira – who starched Sean Strickland – and Bryan Barberena who defeated veteran former champion Robbie Lawler by knockout in an absolute slugfest. Also during the prelims, crowd-favorite Donald Cerrone announced his retirement from competition at the age of 39 following six losses on the bounce.
UFC 276 was another exhilarating evening in the Nevada desert, which Dana White has been bringing us on a consistent basis for what feels like an eternity. But unfortunately, we won’t know the buy rate from this event for some time while the pay-per-view purchases are all counted up. That isn’t a problem though, as the company has put on a number of mammoth events in the past, so let’s take a look through the top three highest-grossing events in UFC history to date.
1 – UFC 229: Khabib vs McGregor – 2,400,000 buys
UFC 229 was an event unlike any other. It was one of those rare occasions when the world stopped, and everyone’s eyes were glued to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It brought the return of ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor, fresh of his moneyspinning knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather inside the boxing ring. McGregor hadn’t been inside the octagon for over two years and in his absence, a new hungry champion had taken his throne.
Khabib Nurmagomedov, from Dagestan, Russia, was that man, and he was a man at the opposite end of the spectrum to the Notorious one. If McGregor is brash and disrespectful, Khabib is humble, focused and dedicated to his craft. He doesn’t drink alcohol, he is devoted to his craft and his faith. And that showed on fight night, with the Dagestani champion retaining his championship via a fourth-round submission victory.
Post-fight, we saw scenes that we had never seen before and would possibly never see again, with the victor clearing the cage and hunting down McGregor’s teammate Dillon Danis, with the pair fighting in the stands. In the meantime, the Russian’s teammates were teeing off on the recently defeated Irishman inside the cage, as all hell had well and truly broken loose. It was an event we will never forget.
2 – UFC 264: Poirier vs McGregor III – 1,800,000 buys
By 2021, McGregor’s aura had somewhat worn off. He had lost three of his last six fights and become immensely rich in the process. But amidst the wealth and the fame came apathy from the public. The Notorious one had been recorded punching old men in pubs as well as having been arrested, twice. To add insult to injury, Dustin Poirier would go on to knock out the Irishman for the first time in his career at UFC 257.
That defeat only added to his drawing power though, and six months on from another devastating loss, he was searching for redemption once again. Gone was the humble and respectful McGregor that had been on display during their initial tussle and back was the outspoken persona that had led him to greatness.
Unfortunately for the former champion, however, lighting would strike again, as Poirier secured another victory, albeit in gruesome fashion. With The Diamond seemingly on top during the first round, McGregor would break his own leg inside stumbling backwards. It’s thought that the damage was done when Poirier checked a leg kick, and he was awarded a knockout victory for his troubles.
3 – UFC 202: Diaz vs McGregor II – 1,650,000 buys
Back in 2016, Conor McGregor has the world at his feet. He had just unified the UFC Featherweight Championship by knocking out Jose Aldo – the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world – in just 13 seconds. It was and still is, the fastest finish in championship fight history.
The Dublin-born man would then attempt to become the first man in history to hold two championship belts at the same time by defeating Rafael Dos Anjos three months later. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be, as the Brazilian champion pulled out of the fight citing an injury. The maverick Nate Diaz would take his place and would throw a spanner in the works of McGregor and the UFC’s plans by defeating the Irishman via second-round submission.
Five months later at UFC 202, he was back and on the hunt for revenge. The highly anticipated rematch became the highest bought pay-per-view in history at the time, with McGregor avenging his loss via a razor-thin split decision after a five-round war.
McGregor’s Star Power
Has anyone ever skyrocketed to the top as quickly as Conor McGregor did? Despite him being his own biggest fan, we think that even he wouldn’t have believed you if you told him he would main event the top three highest-grossing events in company history.
Before him, UFC 100 held the record for over seven years. The event was headlined by Brock Lesnar, who avenged his loss over Frank Mir to unify the heavyweight championship of the world. The event did 1,600,000 buys and over 100 PPV events have attempted to break that record. Even Ronda Rousey tried and failed numerous times.
But not McGregor. He broke it, broke it again, and broke it some more. He will go down in history as the richest MMA fighter in history, as well as being perhaps the most overrated.