Conor McGregor was in Las Vegas for UFC 200 when news broke that would alter the landscape of the sport forever. Just days after the bicentennial event, the UFC completed paperwork on a landmark $4 billion sale that transferred primary ownership of the organization from brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta to an investment group led by talent agency WME-IMG.
The $4 billion price tag was instantly historic, a number so big it marked the biggest franchise sale in sports history, and McGregor couldn't help but admire what the Fertitta brothers had accomplished in just 16 short years since purchasing the struggling UFC for $2 million from founding company SEG.
"I was simply over the moon for them," McGregor said Monday on The MMA Hour. "To see the work they've put in, to see what they've done with it, I was inspired by it. Absolutely inspired by it. What was it, the biggest sports sale in history? A little sport that they laughed at. They laughed at this sport. Everyone ridiculed this sport. This sport wasn't even a sport. And now all of a sudden, with their guidance, it's the biggest f*cking sports franchise in the world. So I took inspiration from that. That is motivation right there.
"If you're talking the greatest of all-time in the fight business, it's that. To be able to get a turnover like that, get in, get rich, get out like that, and build that up to what that was, man, I was blown away when I saw that, and I'm blown away that I'm even on a name-to-name basis with that. These are the people who have mentored me in this game and I'm very proud of that, and I'll be proud of that until the day that I die. I have been surrounded by great people in this business and I continue to be surrounded by great people in this business."
At this point it is still unclear what the UFC sale means for the broader picture of the company.
UFC 201, which took place July 30, was the first event since the finalization of the sale to feel the presence of the new ownership throughout fight week, with WME-IMG executive Patrick Whitesell taking the positions at weigh-ins and on fight night normally reserved for Lorenzo Fertitta. WME-IMG boss Ari Emanuel also figures to play a key role in the revamped UFC, and McGregor is eager to talk business with the new brass after his UFC 202 rematch with Nate Diaz on Aug. 20.
"I haven't had any contact with the new owners," McGregor said. "That's another sit-down I'll have. That'll be an interesting sit-down. I actually have spoken with [new UFC CEO], the Entourage guy, Ari Emanuel. He came over actually once and was like, ‘you think you've made a lot of money now, kid? We're going to make you a lot more.' Something like that, and I was like, who the f*ck is that guy?
"I thought he was kind of like a Hollywood movie guy or something, and that's what he is as well, right? I didn't really understand what he was saying, but I guess a couple days later it got announced that he took over, or his people had bought the UFC now. So I don't know, I haven't had a sit-down, but ... we'll sit down after this fight and we'll see where it's going."
It also has not been lost on McGregor that the UFC sold for such a momentous number, $4 billion, just one year removed from his remarkable 2015 campaign, which saw McGregor rise to be UFC featherweight champion and shatter many ratings and financial records en route to doing so.
As the top draw in the company, McGregor's interest was unsurprisingly piqued once that number become official.
"You're damn right I want a piece of that pie," he said. "Let's not get it twisted, I like pie too. So I'm coming for some of my pie also.
"Like I said, I think I played a nice role in that number. What was it? It was estimated at two billion at one stage before I came along. I remember when I first started here, it was a two-billion dollar franchise. I remember hearing that much. And now, since I came on, it's four billion. And the year before it was sold is my year, numbers-wise. I played a nice role in that too, so the number motivated me."