Madison Square Garden wasn’t quite half full when UFC 205 kicked off on Saturday night, but as the building filled, so did the energy for New York City’s MMA debut.
Around 20,000 fans were expected, which would be one of the largest crowds ever for a sporting event at Madison Square Garden. According to a UFC spokesman, UFC 205 has already made more than $16 million at the gate, breaking the record for a sporting event at the Garden previously held by Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis’ 1999 fight ($13.5 million).
Seventy percent of tickets sold on the primary market were to buyers in New York, but fans came from across the world to see the historic event.
Iain MacLeod and Mark McDowall traveled from Scotland to watch Irish superstar Conor McGregor, and they had their kilts on to prove it.
“I’ve been watching the UFC since UFC 1 so for me this is the biggest card I’ve ever seen in the sport,” MacLeod said. “Coming to New York, it’s where it needs to be for such a big event.”
The pair said they spent about $6,000 total for flights, hotels and tickets to make the trip to New York, but it was worth it to see their first McGregor fight.
Other fans didn’t have quite as far to travel.
Flushing’s J.P. Dolan was clad in an Irish shirt and shamrock-covered pants as he made his way into the Garden, ready to cheer on McGregor.
“I don’t watch the UFC outside of him,” Dolan said. “I paid all the money just to see him.”
Dolan was excited to see the atmosphere the large contingent of Irish fans would create for McGregor. It was something he didn’t want to miss now that it was in his city.
“I tried to [get tickets] right away and they were pretty much sold out, I could only afford the $600 tickets and I could only find one ticket,” Dolan said. “Then I went on eBay and found two for under the face value.”
Brian Tam said he spent $800 on his ticket, but wouldn’t miss seeing fellow Long Islander Chris Weidman fight Yoel Romero.
“I’ve been waiting since I first started watching, when I first found out it was not legal I thought it was kind of weird,” Tam said. “I went to a card in Newark, probably the best experience I’ve had in my life.”