UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports Wednesday that UFC 189 will set promotion records for largest paid gate in the U.S. and will set a Nevada record for attendance, even after the loss of featherweight champion Jose Aldo from the main event of the July 11 card at the MGM Grand.
A broken rib suffered in training on Tuesday forced Aldo out of his title defense against archrival Conor McGregor. The UFC replaced him with Chad Mendes, and they'll meet in the newly constituted main event for the interim featherweight crown. Aldo is expected to fight the winner when he's healthy.
The co-main event will remain the same, a welterweight title fight between Robbie Lawler and challenger Rory MacDonald.
White said the UFC had only received 50 requests for refunds since word of Aldo's withdrawal became public.
White said the show is already a sell-out. A check of TicketMaster.com showed only a handful of seats available and none of those available on the floor. UFC senior vice president Peter Dropick said most of the seats shown on TicketMaster were ones the UFC has added. White said that the UFC is continuing to work with the MGM to add more seats to increase the Grand Garden's capacity to over 16,000.
"We had to get creative," Dropick said. "We stayed within the fire code, but we had to get creative. We have seats in some places we've never had seats before."
The largest U.S. gate in mixed martial arts history is UFC 148 on July 7, 2012, at the MGM Grand, which featured a rematch between then-middleweight champion Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen in the main event. According to Nevada Athletic Commission records, that fight did a $6.9 million gate on an attedance of 13,600. The average ticket for that show sold for $507.44.
It is one of only two MMA fights held in the U.S. to exceed $6 million in gate revenue. UFC 168, a rematch on Dec. 28, 2013, between Chris Weidman and Silva for the middleweight belt, did a gate of $6.2 million on a state record MMA attendance of 14,574. The average ticket sold for Weidman-Silva II was $428.08.
The U.S. attendance record for an MMA fight came at UFC 171 in Dallas on March 15, 2014. That show, which featured Lawler against Johny Hendricks for the welterweight title, had an attendance of 19,324. But the average ticket cost of $134.55 didn't come close to a record because the gate was $2.6 million.
The UFC records for largest gate and largest attendance both came at UFC 129 on April 30, 2011 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. There was an attendance of 55,724 and a paid gate of $12.075 million (in U.S. dollars). The average ticket price for that show was $216.69.
"We're adding seats and when we do, they fly right out the door," White said. "We've barely had any refunds and the ones we've had, as soon as we've gotten the tickets and put them back in the system, they're scooped right up."
White said he also expects the largest crowd at a weigh-in in Las Vegas, though he couldn't provide figures. He said the weigh-in stage, which is usually roughly in the center of the floor, will be pushed "way back" in order to allow as many fans as possible to get in.
White wasn't prepared to speculate about the impact Aldo's loss will have on the pay-per-view. He said he won't seriously pay attention to pay-per-view trends until Tuesday, when it will be a more accurate barometer.