Estimated pay-per-view buy rate numbers are now in for the UFC’s last three events and show that the promotion is struggling to make a major impact this year in the absence of it’s biggest draws like GSP and Anderson Silva.
The UFC are now relying on the likes of Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey to shift the needle for them, but on the evidence of their latest PPV outings they’re not able to do that on a consistent basis.
UFC 170:Rousey Vs McMann
First up, UFC 170 headlined by Rousey and Sara McMann has been pegged by MMAFighting’s Dave Meltzer at 350,000 buys, based on industry insider estimates.
That’s Rousey’s lowest PPV audience to date, and in fairness that’s not all that surprising. Naturally there was a great deal of interest in the first ever female fight in the UFC back at UFC 157 last year as Rousey took on Liz Carmouche, and that helped drive it to 450,000 buys.
Rousey’s next fight was against Miesha Tate at UFC 168 in December, but while that event did big business at the box office with over a million buys, Rousey Vs Tate was only the co-main event and a rematch between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman takes most of the credit for that show’s success.
UFC 170 was a different kettle of fish altogether. There was little pre-fight hype surrounding Rousey’s fight, with McMann only having had one previous fight in the UFC which had taken place on the prelims and there being no real rivalry between the two fighters.
The fight was also backed up by a very weak main card that fielded Daniel Cormier Vs Pat Cummins as the co-main event, so with that in mind Rousey actually did well to still pull 350,000 buys.
UFC 171: Hendricks Vs Lawler:
During his long run as welterweight champion GSP regularly pulled 700,000+ PPV buys, but despite fielding a strong line-up of 170lb stars at UFC 171 to crown a new title holder in his absence, there was no really expectation heading into this event that we were going to see anywhere near that kind of number.
In the end the event is believed to have done around 300,000 PPV sales with Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler headlining – nothing startling, but not too bad in the current climate.
Outside of his previous fight with GSP, Hendricks had never headlined a major UFC event before, and neither had Lawler, so really this show was all about re-building the division and creating new PPV stars, and given the highly entertaining fight that they delivered, there’s no doubt that both main eventers stock rose as a result of this show.
With that in mind, if both fighters can continue winning, a rematch between them down the line could pull a slightly bigger number.
UFC 172: Jones Vs Teixeira
Outside of Rousey, the UFC’s other big PPV hope is Jon Jones, but it seems that as things stand the dominant light-heavyweight champ’s ability to pull a decent buy rate largely depends on who he’s fighting.
On this occasion, while Glover Teixeira had an excellent record heading into this fight, he hadn’t established himself as a big draw for the UFC yet and few believed he was the man to dethrone Jone.
That was reflected in the fact the event only drew 350,000 PPV buys. It was much the same story in Jones’ last fight against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 last year, and on that occasion they produced only 310,000 buys, so at least UFC 172 did show some slight signs of improvement.
Of course Gustafsson ended up really seizing the moment in their fight, almost defeating the long-reigning champion and so there’s now a great deal of interest in a rematch between the two which will now take place later this year, and that’s now a bout that could produce a much healthier number for the UFC.
How good remains to be seen though. Jones best so far has been 700,000 buys for his UFC 145 clash with his biggest rival, former training partner Rashad Evans which had plenty of heat behind it.
The UFC would be thrilled if they could achieve that number again with a Jones Vs Gustafsson rematch, but in general the champions other notable fights have tended to fall around the 450-550,000 mark, and given that the numbers seem to be down in general at the moment for the UFC, that would still be good business for them.
While the above figures for the last three shows might not seem all that impressive, they may end up looking pretty good compared to what the UFC might do for their next couple of shows.
Bantamweight champio Renan Barao headlines against TJ Dillashaw at UFC 173, while flyweight title holder Demetrious Johnson does likewise at UFC 173 against Ali Bagautinov.
In general the lighter weight-classes aren’t seen as big draws for the UFC, hence the reason why neither Barao nor Johnson have headlined a PPV event before, and the fact that they are now doing so against opponents who aren’t likely to spark the public’s imagination means we could potentially be looking at sub-200,000 buys here.
As things stand the UFC are really pinning their hopes on UFC 175 which sees Chris Weidman defending his middleweight title for the first time against Lyoto Machida with Ronda Rousey co-headlining against Alexis Davis and Chael Sonnen Vs Wanderlei Silva proving a compelling third fight on the main card.
It’s not a perfect card, but at this moment in time it’s the UFC’s best chance to get north of 500,000 pay-per-view buys so far this year.