Heading into UFC 202 and the massive rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor next Saturday, a glimpse at the event page on ticketmaster.com might make for surprising viewing to some. When McGregor is top billing, the tickets normally do not last long before selling out. However, this time around things are very different. Using the “Buy on Map” portion of Ticketmaster’s site, which allows buyers to choose the seat they want, we can see the high number of unsold tickets, as is evident in the picture below. The grey dots denote purchased tickets, whereas the blue and purple dots represent unsold tickets and those available for resale respectively.
While many would speculate that this means McGregor’s drawing power has diminished in the face of his first UFC loss to Diaz in their first meeting, I think there are other factors at play here that explain the poor sales.
Ticket Expense: Make no mistake about it; these tickets are not cheap. Even tickets in the top tier of the T-Mobile arena cost in excess of $300, with prices steadily increasing the closer they get to the octagon. For fans in the immediate area, it may seem a better decision financially to either buy the pay-per-view and watch it at home, or pay a comparatively nominal fee to watch the event in a sports bar on a big screen. However, for Irish fans, things are tougher, as will be discussed below.
Irish Fans Stretched: When McGregor steps into the cage on Saturday, it will mark the 4th time in the last 13 months the Irishman has fought in Las Vegas. As someone who has travelled over to Vegas from Ireland for numerous fights in recent times, I know first-hand that the bank account takes a significant hit. I have been told by many fans here in Ireland that they want to go over to Vegas to support their hero, but the coffers are empty. Many Irish fans simply cannot afford the cost of travel (no direct flights from Ireland to Vegas mean multiple flights are required), hotel and spending money, and that is even before you take into account the already mentioned inflated ticket cost added on top of that. In addition, a number of fans also purchased tickets and booked all of the above to attend UFC 200 before McGregor’s well documented removal from that card. Many of those attended UFC 200 and International Fight Week anyway, but others incurred financial loss from cancelling the trip entirely. With this fight coming just over a month later, it simply is not an option for many of those fans either.
Other Sporting Events: This Summer, Ireland qualified for the 2016 European Championships in football (soccer) which took place across France in June and July. As always with Irish sports, the Irish team took a massive following with them. The team qualified past the group stages of the competition following a win over Italy, only to succumb to hosts and eventual runners-up France in next round. In total, Ireland played 4 matches in various locations in France. Football is not a cheap sport to attend either, and for many it was their big expense of the Summer. Another major sporting event currently ongoing is the Olympics, in which Ireland have a healthy contingent representing their country, particularly in boxing. As Ireland has quite a small population, the crossover in fans of different sports is high, so this could be another contributing factor in Irish fans not flocking to Vegas as we have grown accustomed to.
Expectations: With not being far removed from UFC 200 and the huge three-title-fight stacked card but together, UFC 202 on paper may not look nearly as strong a card to some. No title fights and two fighters on the main card making their UFC debuts has been a source of criticism from some. While UFC 200 was the exception rather than the rule, the fact that it is so fresh in the memory may have placed unrealistic expectations in the minds of many, and sales for UFC 202 may have suffered slightly as a result.
Also on expectations, is it possible that some of McGregor’s fans don’t expect the Irishman to emerge victorious? In the time since the first fight with Diaz, a lot has been said on the size difference between the two, as well as the fact that McGregor lost to Diaz, who took the fight on ultra-short notice, meaning he has a full camp this time around. Personally, I think that the first fight going the way it did adds even more intrigue to this fight, but I have spoken to others who do not feel the same, with the question “What is the point?” being commonly asked. While I do not believe this to be as big a factor as that of the expense of the trip, it certainly played a role for some.
The reality is that a number of factors are at play which have resulted in ticket sales for UFC 202 not performing as expected. For some fans, it may be a combination of many of these factors, or one such as they simply cannot afford to make the trip. With so many empty seats still to be filled for UFC 202, the question is; what will the arena look like come fight night?
Dana White gives an update on the lightweight title picture
When it comes to the lightweight division there is always a lot of talk with very little clarification. But now it seems Dana White has had enough of waiting for champion Conor McGregor and plans to move on in his absence.
“The Notorious” Conor McGregor won the UFC lightweight title back in November 2016 at UFC 205 where he became the first fighter to hold two belts simultaneously, however, he has not competed in MMA since.
Speaking on Sunday night’s after UFC Fight Night St. Louis UFC President Dana White said “Conor has said he is thinking about coming back in September if he comes back in September that’s almost two years, that can’t happen. It’s not fair to everybody else. Love Conor, respect Conor, love everything he’s done for this company, everybody knows that I say it all the time. The belt would have to move on.”
White also spoke about the two men that would fight for the lightweight belt saying “You do Khabib versus Tony, we’re working on that fight now and if and when Conor comes back he would get the first crack at the title.”
Then when presenter Karyn Bryant pushed for clarification and asked: “So you’re saying that Conor could possibly be stripped of his title?” Dana responded without hesitation “absolutely”.
"Conor has said he's thinking about coming back in September. If he comes back in September, that's almost two years…that can't happen." — @danawhite
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) January 15, 2018
The news will excite UFC fans across the globe who have been clamoring for the Ferguson vs Khabib matchup which they have been denied on three separate occasions. No date was confirmed for the potential matchup but rumors have been circulating that the UFC is targeting UFC 223 in April.
Conor McGregor reacts to Khabib Nurmagomedov’s win at UFC 219
On Saturday night the world watched as Khabib Nurmagomedov dismantled the striking expert Edson Barboza at UFC 219. The reactions were filled with praise for the undefeated Russian fighter. Media members and fans alike were calling Nurmagomedov one of the best lightweights in the world, but there is one man the world was waiting to hear from, UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. McGregor was silent following the fight between Nurmagomedov and Barboza, that is until Monday morning when he took to Twitter to state his opinion about the Number one contender.
That Dagestani was dog shit the other night you's are all nuts. Game full of sloppy bums asking to be slept. Pay me my worth and Kings back.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) January 1, 2018
Truly truly truly get on your fucking knees and beg me. Otherwise I don't give a bollox.
My whiskey is out this year and thats Diddy bread.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) January 1, 2018
“Truly truly truly get on your fucking knees and beg me,” McGregor wrote on Twitter. “Otherwise, I don’t give a bollox. My whiskey is out this year and that’s Diddy bread.” The whiskey that McGregor is referring to is his very own grand that he announced would be coming out following his loss to Floyd Mayweather this past August.
Rumors about McGregor’s return have ranged from him retiring from fighting to live a life of wealth with his family, to expect his return to the UFC this summer. No one really knows if McGregor will ever defend his UFC lightweight belt, but if he is to do so UFC President Dana White has said that it will be against interim champion Tony Ferguson.
Ferguson was also seeking a fight with Nurmagomedov prior to winning the interim belt against Kevin Lee. It is entirely possible that we will see these two battle for the interim title in the octagon before we see the return of Conor McGregor. Of course, these days there are no guarantees in regards to title contention, McGregor and his camp have publically stated that they would like to face Nurmagomedov in his home country of Russia.
Conor McGregor has ‘Every intention of fighting in 2018’
Despite being inactive since his historic boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August, Conor McGregor is never far from the headlines. Recently his out of cage antics have got people questioning if he’ll ever be back.
Thankfully the UFC lightweight champion appears to have cleared up any rumors about his fighting career.
Speaking to his sponsor Betsafe, the “Notorious” Conor McGregor said “My focus is getting back into the right ring or octagon. 2017 was historic. I have transcended both the sport of MMA and boxing. At this stage of my career, as it has been for the majority of my UFC career, potential opponents must lobby for fights with me. We could see Conor McGregor anywhere. I run the fight game, the fashion game, the whiskey game or whatever the next business endeavor might be”.
McGregor added, “I have every intention of fighting in 2018 if my compensation and business development endeavors accurately reflect my influence on combat sports.”
This comes just two weeks after UFC President Dana White told reporters “Conor might never fight again. The guy’s got $100 (expletive) million. I’ve got guys that made less than that and were lawyers and went to school their whole life and quit working.”
White went on to say “Try to get up and get punched in the face every day when you’ve got $100 million in the bank. Money changes everything with a lot of people.”
White also told reporters that the “Notorious one”, “can’t be paid enough money” and that he is “worth every penny and more.” McGregor’s recent statement suggests he knows that and won’t be back till his demands are met.
The UFC lightweight division has been stalled in the absence of the champion McGregor and now the interim champion Tony Ferguson has undergone surgery. The UFC has been known the remove belts from fighters who have been delayed for extended amounts of time, this would be highly unlikely with the popularity of McGregor.
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