For about an hour, the Twitter feeds of UFC fans and fighters erupted with complaints over the inability to watch UFC 257 on pay-per-view on ESPN+. Several active fighters even joked about taking matters into their own hands and finding an illegal stream, which probably wasn’t music to the ears of UFC President Dana White after his vow to stamp out piracy.
But for all the noise online, White said the streaming issues many faced after ordering the pay-per-view event were limited by geography.
“It was mostly on the West Coast,” White told reporters, including MMA Fighting, at the post-event press conference at Etihad Arena, which hosted Saturday’s event in Abu Dhabi. “But they got it fixed, and it was a good night. It was a really good night – top-two of all time.”
The UFC doesn’t make pay-per-view buy figures public, but the promotion has said UFC 229 drew the highest numbers in its history. That event also featured McGregor in a highly anticipated grudge match against lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. Reports said the buyrate was 2.4 million, which would have generated over $155 million in revenue.
McGregor is far and away the biggest PPV star in the company, reportedly drawing over one million buys on six occasions. A rematch with Nurmagomedov would be huge business.
White hoped UFC 257 would convince Nurmagomedov to return to the octagon, and he repeatedly teased a rematch between the champ and McGregor before Poirier felled the Irish star with punches in the second round. Nurmagomedov’s interest in a comeback appeared to wane, he said, after the result of Saturday’s fight.
By the time Poirier and McGregor walked to the cage, complaints about streaming problems had disappeared. Most appeared able to watch the fights around the third fight of the main card, giving them a real-time look at the two headlining bouts, which included the stunning octagon debut of three-time Bellator champion Michael Chandler.
The outage nonetheless came at an inopportune time for the UFC, whose broadcast partner raised eyebrows by hiking the price of future pay-per-view events starting with UFC 257. It was the second increase from ESPN since the promotion signed an exclusive deal with the broadcast network in 2019.