The Golden Ticket: Why UFC Fighters Battle for Spots on McGregor’s Undercards

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UFC 205 is the company’s first foray into New York City. Their inaugural event in Madison Square Garden is rightfully headlined by the biggest star in the sport’s history, Conor McGregor.

Deeming McGregor the UFC’s brightest star isn’t hyperbole. He now has 3 of the 5 highest selling PPVs in UFC history and UFC 200, which is 5th on the list, once featured him as well.

  1. UFC 202 Diaz vs. McGregor 2 – 1,650,000 PPVs
  2. UFC 196 McGregor vs. Diaz – 1,600,000 PPVs
  3. UFC 100 Lesnar vs Mir 2 – 1,600,000 PPVs
  4. UFC 194 Aldo vs. McGregor – 1,200,000 PPVs
  5. UFC 200 Tate vs. Nunes – 1,200,000 PPVs

McGregor is undoubtably the UFC’s cash cow and they’ve once again tasked him with carrying a landmark moment for the promotion.

His opponent, Eddie Alvarez, is earning the biggest purse of his career but the monetary effect Conor has on the other fighters on his cards can’t be overlooked. Let’s take UFC 202 for example:

  • Conor McGregor ($3 million + no win bonus = $3 million) def. Nate Diaz ($2 million)
  • Anthony Johnson ($135,000 + $135,000 = $270,000) vs. Glover Teixeira up from previous fight vs. Bader ($115,000 + $115,000 = $245,000)
  • Donald Cerrone ($85,000 + $85,000 = $170,000) vs. Rick Story up from previous fight vs. Cote ($79,000 + $79,000 = $158,000)
  • Mike Perry ($10,000 + $10,000 = $20,000) vs. Hyun Gyu Lim in his UFC debut
  • Tim Means ($31,000 + $31,000 = $62,000) vs. Sabah Homasi up from previous fight vs. Howard ($27,000 + $27,000 = $54,000)

Conor received a UFC record $3 million disclosed for his victory over Nate Diaz, which was 3x as much as their first fight. Nate’s jump was even greater, his $2 million disclosed was 4x as much as he earned at UFC 196 and more than the rest of his career purses combined.

The UFC 202 inflation isn’t an isolated incident, Miesha Tate also saw a jump in salary from her UFC 196 co-main event.

  • Nate Diaz ($500,000 + no win bonus = $500,000) def. Conor McGregor ($1,000,000)
  • Miesha Tate ($46,000 + $46,000 = $92,000) vs. Holly Holm up from previous fight vs. Jessica Eye ($37,500 + $37,500 = $75,000)

That brings us back to UFC 205 in NYC. The historic nature of event in itself mean more revenue for both the promotion and the featured fighters, but the addition of Conor McGregor has proven to drive fighter’s disclosed salaries up an extra 8% when he fights.

This means that the athletes that campaigned to fight on the first NYC card owe McGregor a tip of the cap for adding to their bank accounts this weekend.

Beyond just salary, there are a few fighters with much more at stake this weekend. We’ve already shown the career changing purses McGregor’s opponents are garnering and we see two potential opponents take fights on the non-PPV portion of UFC 205 in hopes of aligning perfectly with McGregor’s next fight.

“Everyone in this game does what they’re f*cking told, everyone but me, because I run the game,” said McGregor on the UFC 205 conference call. “You’re told to be on the prelims, you’re on the f*cking prelims. You’re told to be on a Fight Night, you’re on a f*cking Fight Night. Nobody has no say in this but me. I’m the only one that can say anything about anything. Everyone else does what they’re told and rightfully f*cking so.”

McGregor bravado aside, he does have a point. Both Frankie Edgar and Khabib Nurmagomedov were once expected to receive title shots at UFC 205 but McGregor’s travels thru weight classes scrambled the picture. That hasn’t stopped either fighter from doing everything in their power to get the title shot they crave.

Despite a loss to Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar is looking to finally secure his own fight against Conor McGregor. By fighting on the same night as Conor he puts himself in position to replace the oft-injured Aldo if he was to pull out of a future bout with Conor.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is relegated to a #1 contender fight against Michael Johnson. After being sent multiple contracts to fight Eddie Alvarez and not landing the matchup, Conor decided he wanted the test and Khabib had to get back in line.

No matter who leaves UFC 205 with the lightweight championship, ‘The Eagle’ Khabib will be waiting in the wings for his chance to grab the title that has eluded him for years.

You can expect more fighters to chase the UFC’s “Golden Ticket,” aka Conor McGregor, if he makes history as the first simultaneous two-division champion.

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