In the early stages of UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje fight week, Dana White had claimed that the event was trending to become even bigger than the astronomically successful UFC 229: McGregor vs. Khabib event in 2018, but with that in mind it hasn’t produced the kind of numbers he may have been anticipating.
That’s not to say the event didn’t do respectable numbers though. Despite an unusually early start time of 2pm ET the event delivered 675,000 pay-per-view sales according to the Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand.
Of that total, 500,000 sales were believed to have come from the U.S. and as such that means this was actually only the 5th most purchased PPV of what’s been an unexpectedly strong year for the promotion in that regard.
It should also go without saying that this means it was nowhere close to the staggering 2.4 million buys that UFC 229 generated.
So, why did the event fail to deliver the kind of results White had appeared to be anticipating a week ago?
It was a big gamble on the UFC’s part to put the event on during the afternoon in the U.S. market, which was done to ensure it would air at a good time for the Russian / European market.
There’s no question that Khabib is a massive superstar in Russian speaking regions, which has helped drive enormous traffic to any content he’s a part of, which may have been why White was seeing signs that numbers for the event were off-the-charts.
The problem is that the markets the UFC were catering to time-wise aren’t as accustomed to buying PPV’s as the U.S. and Khabib doesn’t have the once-in-a-generation global box office drawing power of Conor McGregor.
Still, 500,000 U.S. PPV buys for such an unusual start time is respectable and it would have been interesting to see how it would have done if it had just aired at it’s traditional start time in the evening.