Dana White's job is to promote UFC fights, but he's starting to promote one fighter more than the rest: Khabib Nurmagomedov. White now claims that Khabib is one of the biggest stars in all of sports, not just the UFC. Since many kids can't even watch UFC fights, this is a bold claim. But the numbers suggest he's right.
Khabib will face Justin Gaethje this weekend, and social media has lit up with anticipation for the fight.
"Monday, this thing was trending to be the biggest fight we've ever seen," Dana White said Tuesday. "Not Thursday, not Friday--Monday. It's trending bigger than Khabib/McGregor."
White was asked if the obsessive coverage from social media proves his point about Khabib's popularity.
"I knew someone was going to ask me this today. Khabib's videos have generated 222 million views. His content that features him: over 100 million views this year alone on Facebook. He's broken records on Instagram. I could rattle off numbers all day," White said. "He's the number one by far most played character in the video games by a long shot. I could go on for days."
"The reality is this...apparently people in the business don't know this. Khabib is one of the biggest stars in all of sports. Not just UFC. He's one of the biggest stars in sports," Dana White said.
What's drawing attention to this fight?
Even with Khabib's growing star power, the fight this weekend would garner little attention if were facing a forgettable opponent. Dana White also points to the challenge Justin Gaethje brings to this bout.
"What makes this fight so big is that people believe this kid (Gaethje) has the style to beat him," White said. "So you have all the ingredients for a massive fight. You have a big superstar and you've got a kid that's coming off an incredible win over a highly respected fighter and many people believe that he has the style to win."
Dana White seems genuinely interested not only in promoting UFC but in encouraging his athletes like Khabib and Gaethje to grow outside the Octagon. We haven't seen this type of star support in other professional sports leagues like MLB where, despite an estimated net worth of $630 million, Mike Trout can still walk into a local Chili's without anyone recognizing him. Let's hope that he leaves a good tip at least.
FanDuel has Khabib favored (-340) over Justin Gaethje (+260), but this fight is anticipated to be neck and neck.
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