UFC 229, which was headlined by a lightweight title fight between undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former lightweight and featherweight champion Conor McGregor, was far and away the biggest pay-per-view the UFC has ever promoted. The card sold north of 2.4 million pay-per-views, blasting past the previous record of roughly 1.6 million.
Speaking to the media in Russia this week, Khabib Nurmagomedov was asked about the card’s massive pay-per-view sales, and surprisingly, admitted that credit should be given to Conor McGregor.
“You know, you should give credit to Conor,” Nurmagomedov said matter of factly about his former opponent and arch rival. “He is very popular. Was I as popular before the fight? I don’t think so. But if you compare us as athletes, I proved that I am better. But as a star he is much brighter than me. I don’t know how much now, but before the fight, definitely.”
Khabib Nurmagomedov also believes that the card’s pay-per-views sales were fuelled by a rivalry between his native Russia, and McGregor’s Ireland.
“It was also a rivalry between countries, 100%,” he said. “Do you remember my statement? Irish only six million. Russians 150 million.
While Khabib Nurmagomedov is willing to admit that Conor McGregor was the main driver of UFC 229 pay-per-view sales, his manager Ali Abdelaziz now believes that Nurmagomedov is now the bigger star of the two.
“I think, as a global superstar, Khabib bypass him,” the manager said. “You have a guy meeting with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and the other guy selling liquor on the corner store. It’s not even in the f**king same planet. Good for him. Whatever.”
Are you surprised to hear Khabib Nurmagomedov giving his arch nemesis Conor McGregor props for his role in the massive financial success of UFC 229?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 11/2/2018.