While many sports leagues are struggling through a 2020 struck by the coronavirus pandemic, the UFC continues to trend upward.
UFC president Dana White has consistently said that this is going to be the promotion’s best year yet. He is now saying that UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje is trending to be the promotion’s biggest single event yet.
“Do I think (UFC 254) is going to do over 2 million (pay-per-view buys)? I have no idea, but I can tell you this, the data is telling us it will,” White said at a recent scrum on Fight Island.
UFC 254 features undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov looking to unify his belt with that of interim titleholder Justin Gaethje. The interim title was created when Khabib was unable to compete at UFC 249 in May, the promotion’s first event after a nearly global shutdown.
With Khabib at home in Russia and unable to compete at UFC 249, Gaethje stepped in to face Tony Ferguson for the interim designation. He won, but refused to put on the belt and call himself the champ until he beats Khabib.
Gaethje will get that opportunity on Fight Island on Saturday. Evidently, sports fans around the world want to find out if he can do it.
White insists the data indicates that fans are going to watch in record numbers. He added that UFC 254 has already generated more than 23 billion impressions worldwide; a good indicator that interest actually is at record levels.
It’s a trend that White and the UFC have seen follow since they restarted the professional sports world back in May.
“Since the pandemic started, you would have never dreamed we’d have pulled the numbers we have on the other pay-per-views with the fights that we had. Everything is trending (up) for us right now. Other sports are going (down) with their ratings, our ratings continue to go up,” said White.
“It’s weird because this whole pandemic thing has been really good for the sport. If you look at the numbers that we’ve continued to pull and the stars that we’ve already started to build through the pandemic, it’s pretty fascinating.
“It’s been an incredible run. It’s been fun. And we’ll see how this thing plays out and what’s in store for 2021.”
One thing that White and everyone else hopes for is a safe return for fans to live events. The UFC and others have operated primarily without audiences in attendance.
White has indicated that he doesn’t want to have fans in attendance until he can do it full strength, but only time will tell if and when that happens.
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