UFC Featherweight champion Conor McGregor is the new undisputed pay-per-view king of the UFC.
The Dubliner now lays claim to the two highest-selling UFC pay-per-views of all time, with UFC 202 reportedly pulling in an estimated 1.65 million buys in the USA alone, according to MMAFighting’s Dave Meltzer.
McGregor now holds three of the top four selling UFC pay-per-view’s of all time, but there was a time when his coach, and then promoter, John Kavanagh could barely sell tickets to his fights.
“You know sometimes I laugh because I used to run small amateur shows, well they were pro fights back then but they really were amateur shows, and I remember I had a show with Gunnar Nelson, Conor McGregor, Aisling Daly and Paddy Holohan and it was a tenner for a ticket and I struggled selling them,” Kavanagh said at the BAMMA 26 press conference in Dublin.
“I’d probably sell them out now pretty handy, but what I’d say to fans now is [BAMMA 26] is your chance to look at future stars [in Irish MMA].”
With 17 fights and nine fighters from SBG on the card, BAMMA 26 will be a busy night for Kavanagh who will return to the 3 Arena for the first time since February.
The 14,500-capacity arena was host to McGregor’s breakout win over Diego Brandao in July 2014, but the show also gave a number of Irish fighters their first starts in MMA’s premier organisation with Cathal Pendred and Holohan also making their debuts on the historic night in Dublin.
Fast forward two years and BAMMA 26 will be looking to showcase similar Irish talent on Saturday night when SBG’s John Phillips takes on Manchester’s Andy Devent in the main event for the BAMMA middleweight championship.
It will be the last of three title fights on the night with flyweight Rany Saadeh and bantamweight Alan Philpott also scheduled to defend their respective belts, but title fights aside, Kavanagh believes that Irish fans have an excellent opportunity to come and watch Ireland’s next wave of MMA stars fight right here in Dublin.
“Everyone on this stage here sees the UFC as a measuring scale and there’s no one here at this table that doesn’t have the skills to get to that level,” added Kavanagh.
“For me BAMMA is more or less the top show in Europe, and you don’t have to be bowing down to the UFC, because as far as I’m concerned, these fighters have skill levels that are as good as anyone, regardless if they fight in the UFC or BAMMA.
“For the sake of a couple of euros, and for this thing to be only down the road, there’s a lot of Irish guys that obviously support that Conor fella and for MMA fans, that’s [The 3 Arena] where they should be on Saturday night. That place should be sold out and we should be proud of all these guys for leading the way.”
Also on the card is McGregor’s training partner and potential UFC fighter, Peter Queally.
Queally was originally supposed to fight UFC welterweight Tim Means at UFC 202 in Las Vegas last month, but was pulled from the card at the last minute due to Visa complications.
A win on Saturday night would put the Waterford native in line for a debut appearance at UFC Belfast in November and the ‘showstopper’ is confident of doing exactly that with a win against Joe McColgan.
“I think if I win here I’m on Belfast. 100%,” Queally told the media in Dublin.
“The fight [with Means at UFC 202] was mine, they gave it to me and for about six hours I was signed until they came back to me a day later and said we can’t get you your visa.
“They gave the Tim Means fight to some American that he butchered. I was watching that fight in the dressing room and I was just sick.
“I would have beaten him, I would have beat the brakes off of him, so yeah a big win for me this weekend and I’d be very confident that I’ll be on UFC Belfast in November.”
Tickets for BAMMA 26 are still on sale at ticketmaster.ie with prices starting from €48.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena