Dana White rips Stephen Espinoza, reveals Conor McGregor’s return generating first $20M live gate for UFC

If there was any question about Conor McGregor’s drawing power following a three-year absence, the live gate for his return to action should answer that rather emphatically.

Following UFC St. Louis on Saturday, UFC CEO Dana White revealed that McGregor’s upcoming fight against Michael Chandler on June 29 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, has already produced the biggest live gate in the company’s history with the event still six weeks away.

“It’s already way over $20 million,” White told reporters at the post-fight press conference.

UFC has actually never produced a $20 million live gate previously, but McGregor has played a part in three of the top five selling events of all-time already.

Back in 2016, McGregor became the first fighter to become a simultaneous two-division UFC champion when he knocked out Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in New York. That card generated a $17.7 million live gate, which holds the current all-time record.

The second biggest gate came for McGregor’s UFC 229 showdown against Khabib Nurmagomedov in Las Vegas, which pulled in $17,188,895.

Of course, UFC banked on a lot of interest surrounding McGregor’s return for UFC 303, with the promotion offering up ticket packages for VIPs that exceeded more than $12,000.

Breaking the $20 million mark also gives White a chance to thumb his nose at a former rival, one who previously mocked the MMA promotion for never reaching the same heights as some of the biggest boxing events in history.

Stephen Espinoza, who ran Showtime Sports before Paramount shut down the operation at the end of 2023, famously touted that UFC had never done a $20 million gate while he was promoting his third such event in the same calendar year with a 2023 event headlined by Canelo Alvarez and Jermell Charlo.

Of course, Espinoza and White remained at odds for years after co-promoting the boxing match between McGregor and Floyd Mayweather back in 2017. They rarely missed an opportunity take shots at each other, and this situation was no different.

“This event on Saturday night will generate a gate of over $20 million,” Espinoza said this past September before Alvarez vs. Charlo. “That’s a rare feat in combat sports. This will be the third time in the last six months that we’ve done a gate of $20 million. To put that in perspective, UFC has never done a gate of $20 million in its entire history. We’ve done it three times since April.”

White didn’t think much about Espinoza’s comments back then, and his opinion hasn’t changed much now that UFC is preparing to break the $20 million mark for the first time.

“Who gives a flying f*ck what Espinoza thinks, pardon my language,” White said. “Where is Espinoza? Who gives a shit?”

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