Both the UFC and Bellator held major pay-per-view events over the course of the past few weeks, and the initial estimates suggest that neither set the world alight as far as their buy rates goes.
First up was Bellator: NYC, which took place on Saturday, June 24th at Madison Square Garden, featuring a headline attraction of Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva, with Fedor Emelianenko starring in the co-main event opposite Matt Mitrione.
The buy rate estimate from MMAFighting’s Guy Metzer suggests that the event did in the region of 90,000 – 130,000 buys, around the same as their only other foray into the PPV market three years ago with Bellator 120: Rampage Vs King Mo in 2014, which did just over 100,000 buys.
That will surely be something of a disappointment for Bellator as this was their most star-studded line-up to date, and they already had a strong backstory heading into the main event due to the fact that the bad blood between Sonnen and Silva stemmed all the way back to their UFC days.
The inclusion of Fedor on the card along with multiple other title fights, together with a marketing budget that was claimed to be “20-30 times” bigger than anything they’d done before indicated that the promotion were going all-in to make this a major event and they clearly had high hopes it was going to draw considerably more than it’s ended up doing.
In fact, Bellator CEO Scott Coker had even stated himself prior to the event that, “Any [buy rate] in the mid-200,000s would be respectable. And anything in the 300,000s would be considered a big hit.”
Perhaps Bellator will take some comfort from the fact that the UFC 213 event on Saturday, July 8th in Las Vegas headlined by an interim middleweight title fight between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker didn’t fare much better, with the estimate there being in the region of 125,000 – 150,000 buys.
The UFC always holds one of their biggest events of the year during International Fight Week in Las Vegas at this time, such as the historic UFC 200 card the year before, which drew just over one million pay-per-view buys, but this year’s offering proved to be a major flop.
The event was plagued with issues right from the start. The promotion struggled to find a suitable headliner, with hopes of headlining with the return of Georges St-Pierre and middleweight champion Michael Bisping being dashed due to the Canadian superstar revealing that he wouldn’t be ready until later in the year.
Another title fight between bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw also collapsed due to injury, as did an eagerly anticipated main card bout featuring former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler going up against Donald Cerrone.
Running low on options, a women’s bantamweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko was finally unveiled as the main event to little fanfare, but the final nail in the coffin for the show came when that bout also fell through on just a few hours notice when the champion pulled out due to not feeling well, leaving Romero Vs Whittaker stepping up to main event status.
With that in mind it’s no surprise that UFC 213 failed to deliver on PPV, though it’s still a horribly low number by all acounts.
However, if there’s one positive thing from their perspective, it’s that the UFC 214 event at the end of July has now stepped in to serve as a true blockbuster offering, with a card that features a light-heavyweight title rematch between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones in the main event, plus welterweight champion Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia in the co-feature, Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino and Tonya Evinger fighting for the interim women’s featherweight title and Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone also on-board.
That’s the kind of line-up the UFC had been hoping for to lead International Fight Week and it should do much better on PPV than UFC 213 – provided there are no last-minute cancellations of course!