Conor McGregor's absence from UFC 200 was supposed to be made up financially by his appearance two cards later. After all, cards that feature McGregor have yielded three of top five gates in UFC history.
But, judging from what's available on Ticketmaster for the UFC 202 card that McGregor is headlining, recouping that loss is going to be a long shot.
More than 2,700 tickets still haven't been sold with three days to go before McGregor fights Nate Diaz in a rematch at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. That means roughly 14 percent of the arena hasn't been sold. The majority of those tickets are the premium, high-priced seats in the lower bowl, closest to the octagon.
Roger Jones of Vegas Tickets, among the biggest resellers of UFC tickets, says the main factor is the new T-Mobile Arena. Having a permanent venue that is not tied to a casino, Jones said, has allowed people who wanted premium tickets to reserve them ahead of time. That means there are fewer people and companies looking for the best seats on an event-by-event basis.
"It's affecting everything in this arena, including concerts," Jones said. "If you are Turner Construction, a big company here, you've already purchased your suite. Even a guy who has a business with decent presence in Las Vegas isn't looking around for seats at the last minute because he already got club-seat rights."
That's why, Jones said, the premium seats for UFC 202 aren't selling.
Jones also says he believes the UFC has overpriced most of the seats, which range from $365 to $9,995. His company, to sell its inventory, is reselling the $365 seats for $250 and seats priced at $2,950 for $1,800.
Patrick Ryan, co-founder of Eventellect, a secondary market ticket distribution company, agrees.
"What it appears the UFC has done is to raise prices to match past prices on the secondary market, so that they don't leave money on the table," Ryan said. "But when brokers don't think they can make the margin on your tickets, they don't buy and that contributes to lost buzz."
Ryan said the WWE is willing to leave some money on the table for the resellers, which is why, he says, approximately 5,000 seats have been resold for SummerSlam in Brooklyn this weekend and fewer than 1,200 have been resold for UFC 202.
WWE, he says, rarely heads into marquee pay-per-view events with so much available inventory the week of the show, whereas that has started to become commonplace for UFC.
A UFC spokesman declined to speculate on the ticket situation. Due to higher ticket prices, Saturday's event will still generate more than $7 million in live gate and might qualify as the fifth-largest ticket sales revenue event in UFC history (UFC 200 did $10.7 million). Factoring in UFC 202, recent events in Las Vegas dating back to December will still have pulled in more than $40 million at the gate.
It's worth noting that the percentage of fans traveling from international markets, notably the United Kingdom and Ireland, is down. McGregor's loss to Diaz in their first fight certainly is at play, as well as the frequency of McGregor's fights -- many have come over several times in the past 13 months to watch their native son, so perhaps fatigue is setting in.
Jones doesn't think all is lost for UFC 202. He says he is counting on a strong walk-up crowd from locals and those who happen to be in Vegas who will be convinced, come this weekend, that the best entertainment they can get will be watching the battles in the octagon.