“This thing is trending off the charts. This thing is trending higher than a Conor McGregor fight. … This thing is trending as big as a fight as I’ve ever seen in my entire career.”

When UFC president Dana White said this the day before UFC 251, you figured he was just doing his job as a promoter. Not that Jorge Masvidal didn’t become the breakout star of 2019 (he certainly did), but when you start talking about the possibility for anyone’s fight to outdo Conor McGregor numbers, it’s hard to believe.

And yet, it was revealed Monday in a report by The Athletic that UFC 251, which featured Masvidal losing to welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in the headliner, generated an estimated 1.3 million pay-per-view buys this past Saturday on ESPN+ only. It marked the fifth time that the UFC has reached 1.3 million buys for an event, with the most recent being UFC 229 in October 2018 – headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov’s win over McGregor – which holds the promotion’s buyrate record at 2.4 million.

So, let’s try and put this into perspective. Just how big of a star do these numbers suggest Masvidal really is? Consider the following:

  • Masvidal’s first fight of 2020, with practically no promotion, outdid McGregor’s highly anticipated return to MMA after more than a year off in January at UFC 246, which sold 1 million.
  • UFC 251 performed higher than any of the pay-per-views headlined by one of the promotion’s biggest stars, Ronda Rousey.
  • UFC 245 last December featured many of the same components as UFC 251 – Usman in the main event, Max Holloway vs. Alexander Volkanovski 1, Jose Aldo, and Petr Yan. We don’t know the numbers from that event (likely because they weren’t great), but if I had to make a generous guess, I’d say no more than 500,000. And I’m probably being too generous, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s go with that, which basically would equate to Masvidal single-handedly being responsible for roughly 800,000 buys.
  • If anyone doubts the latter statement above, Masvidal’s UFC 251 post-fight news conference video has 2.7 million views on YouTube compared to Usman’s 406,000 as of this writing.
  • And just to make one other comparison between UFC 245 and UFC 251 as it relates to MMA Junkie, our play-by-play post – always our biggest traffic driver on fight nights – did 40 percent more page views for UFC 251 than it did for UFC 245.

In other words, Masvidal isn’t just a “BMF.” He’s a “BMF” who sells.

Prior to accepting the Usman fight on six days’ notice, Masvidal was engaged in a public dispute with White and UFC executives over his compensation, which is why the bout fell through in the first place. Usman’s original UFC 251 opponent, Gilbert Burns, testing positive for COVID-19 gave Masvidal all the leverage he needed when the UFC came calling in an emergency, but even then he admitted he didn’t get paid exactly what he wanted – but it was enough to make him happy.

One day before UFC 251, Masvidal was asked about what he learned from these negotiations and offered advice to young fighters.

“Know your value,” he said. “A lot of the young guys just don’t know their value. Because a lot of the young guys don’t know their value, and it’s not their fault. I didn’t know my value. When I was 19, 20 years old, if somebody offered me $2,000, I’d kill a gorilla. It’s tough as these kids are coming up.

“All I can tell them is know your value and stick to your guns.”

Masvidal certainly knows his value now, and there’s no question that future fights with McGregor, Nate Diaz, Colby Covington, or even Leon Edwards after their infamous “three-piece and a soda” encounter, would capture the attention of the general public and sell big to varying degrees.

Can he stick to his guns, though, to ensure he gets paid exactly what he deserves moving forward? At 35 and nearing his 17th year as a professional fighter, it’s super necessary he does.