'This thing's trending off the CHARTS': Khabib's UFC return against Gaethje 'on course to OUTSELL fight with McGregor,' says White
Lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov's return after more than 13 months out, when he fights Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 on Saturday, could smash the pay-per-view buys record set when he faced Conor McGregor, Dana White has said.
The UFC president has revealed that the Russian champion could attract more sales than he did for his victory over McGregor in October 2018, which is thought to have produced a total of around 2.4 million buys.
Sports fans hungry for action after a year that has seen much of the calendar postponed or canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic are clearly excited by Nurmagomedov's headline clash with interim champion Gaethje, although White admitted he was concerned that sales would be reduced by the timing of the fight.
Nurmagomedov and Gaethje are expected to ringwalk at around five in the evening on East Coast Time in the US, allowing fans in Europe to watch the scrap at a more sociable time than they are used to.
"This thing's trending off the charts for us right now," White said, discussing the enduring popularity of Nurmagomedov with TMZ.
"On Monday, this thing was trending to be the biggest fight we've ever had – not Thursday, not Friday: Monday.
"One of the things that is a big negative for us is that it is not primetime at home [in the US]. This thing starts in the afternoon."
The total box office earnings for the fight are unlikely to become clear for months but the outlet speculated that the UFC's standard $65 pay-per-view charge would make the sum around $156 million, based on 2.4 million viewers watching on traditional pay-per-view.
Last month's UFC 253 card, headlined by Israel Adesanya's acrimonious middleweight win over bitter rival Paulo Costa, generated more than 700,000 PPV buys globally.
McGregor has been involved in three of the promotion's greatest sellers, including the previous record of 1.5 million buys for his fight with Nate Diaz in August 2016.
White said that he expected McGregor to go ahead with a mooted meeting with Dustin Poirier in January, adding that no deal had yet been finalized.
He admitted that he had been unaware of Nurmagomedov's stated interest in fighting Georges St-Pierre but cautioned that the UFC legend could struggle to make weight after an extended period away from the sport.
"Just because that's what Khabib wants, doesn't mean that fight can be made," he warned, adding that he would be "interested in talking about it".
"I mean, there are just so many things that have to come into play for that fight to happen."
Discussions on Nurmagomedov's next move are likely to take place next month. "I'll give them a couple of weeks, however the fight goes, to relax and do their thing [first]," explained White.