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Is it Fair to Blame Jon Jones for UFC 128′s Lackluster Buy Rate?

(“Your numbers are a little weak in the swing states, Jon. We’d like you to consider wearing this American flag pin.” Pic: ESPN)

Even as MMA hardcores continue to cream their collective jeans over the unbelievable awesomeness of new light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, early estimates indicate UFC 128 didn’t quite live up to expectations in the sales department. Stalwart fight journalist (and the kind of dude who keeps track of this stuff) Dave Meltzer reports his numbers show Saturday night’s pay-per-view notching between 415,000-470,000 buys, which puts it pretty much exactly on the nose of the UFC’s  “average” buy rate of 445K. What’s that mean exactly? Well, to borrow a phrase from Scott Coker, it means UFC 128 didn’t really “move the needle” with casual fans.

Naturally, some of the people who get paid to have opinions about this kind of thing (dudes like us) will see this as a failure on the part of Jones himself. After all, the UFC did everything it could to market this PPV behind the 23-year-old phenom, including both a “Countdown” special and the heretofore unseen “In the Moment” documentary on SpikeTV. To this notion, we’d like to say: Not so fast. Even as a website that’s occasionally been quasi-critical of the sport’s new Christ figure, we think it’s pretty unfair to hang this particular PPV’s disappointing showing on Jones. Don’t forget that he didn’t become a full-on breakout superstar until AFTER he crushed Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to win the strap, you guys.

Obviously, leading up to UFC 128 Jones was regarded by MMA fans as a one-of-a-kind talent with almost limitless potential. On the other hand, there wasn’t really much reason to believe anyone outside of our dark little social corner had ever heard of him. Prior to his win over Ryan Bader at UFC 126, Jones’ previous two fights had been tucked away on the Versus Network, which certainly didn’t do his Q-score any favors. Given that 128 was his first-ever appearance in a PPV main event you can’t exactly expect the world from it, can you?

As Meltzer correctly points out, UFC 128 had a few other things working against it that had nothing to do with Jones. The supporting card was relatively weak, with another potential star (Urijah Faber) making his UFC debut against yet another guy nobody had ever heard of (Eddie Wineland). You can’t really expect people to line-up in droves for Jim Miller vs. Kamal Shalorus and Nate Marquardt vs. Dan Miller, either. Not to mention, Jones was up against a barely established champion who was himslef coming off a nearly year-long hiatus after knee surgery.

In addition, UFC 128 pretty much went head-to-head for the hearts and minds of 18-35 year-old males with the opening week of the NCAA basketball tournament. Didn’t take a genius to figure out who was going to win that one, since a lot of potential UFC customers probably didn’t pull their heads out of their rapidly dissolving brackets long enough to notice the company was even putting on a show.

If you insist on viewing last weekend as a referendum on Jones’ drawing power however, we’re going to hold firm to the notion that the kid didn’t make his start turn until during the show. By that time, it was too late to buy the PPV, obviously. Luckily for everyone involved, the Jon Jones Era has begun with a ready-made feud with Rashad Evans which – if the UFC plays it correctly – should produce pretty gigantic numbers when the time comes. Now, if that PPV fizzles? We might have a problem.

Honestly, the cynic in us wouldn’t be surprised if Jones’ overly-scripted media personality doesn’t find legs with the UFC audience like everyone expects it might. Still, way too early to know for sure, and something tells us as long as Jones continues to fight like he’s a hidden character in a “Street Fighter” game, he’ll be just fine in the marketability department. Anybody who says differently is jumping the gun big time.

Cagepotato Comments

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Cokane- March 26, 2011 at 6:03 am
I also dont buy into the 'grudge' with Rashad. In all honesty I facepalmed when I saw Rashad slink onto the in-ring camera after the 128 main event. I have zero interest in this fight, but I suppose it will fill a PPV main event while the more interesting fighters fight it out for next shot at the belt, given that a next contender isn't immediately obvious.

Machida V Jones is the one I really want to see. Rampage V Jones could also be mildly interesting.
DBKlein69- March 25, 2011 at 5:43 pm
jon jones is a legend. hands down most exciting fighter in all of mma
Griz8WhiteHYPE- March 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm
and of course, this should have been in the jon jones fake pic article. im done. damn.
Griz8WhiteHYPE- March 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm
This is great! You should get like 2 or 3 more of these, put them together along with a real story, and have us guess which one is real.

What? Oh, you mean, that crashed and burned too? Maybe you should have taken a hint from the first series of failed articles?

If I wanted fake news, yes, I'll go theonion.
If I want real news, I catch up with the real journalists at mmafighting.

It's been a pleasure trolling gang, this site's now far more of funny joke than this article will ever be.
rcj5019- March 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm
Hey CagePotato, since your slamming me over my site… how about you sack up and take me on in a fight picking competition for tomorrows matchups.

I whooped ass in FightPicker then you dongs took it off. The time for redemption is at hand.


Ryan Johnson
Harry Sack- March 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm
like Strikeforce Challengers series re-runs
Harry Sack- March 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm
Rashad is mediocre like the Indiana Pacers
Harry Sack- March 25, 2011 at 12:43 pm
intercept440- March 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm
and no im not advocating hitting woman.....
intercept440- March 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm
ide rather watch randy couture slap the shit out of his ex wife Kim than watch rashad at anything.
danomite- March 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm
this card wasn't nearly as weak as 124, in fact i'm not sure I can think of any card was as weak as 124, but it still managed to sell almost 900,000 ppv's. i'm sure once the mainstream audience finds out about jones and his love of jesus he will start selling more ppv's.

could you imagine if the champs were jim miller, jake shields, and yushin okami? the UFC would go bankrupt.
rcj5019- March 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm
No he hasn't. Phil Davis is an animal. Guarantee his wrestling is better than Jones.
blackboxmma- March 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm
Jones already cleaned out the division, who is going to want to fight that freak of nature.
RwilsonR- March 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm
I still think Jon Jones is gonna be the biggest star in the UFC in a year. In two years, he may be the biggest star ever in MMA. In three years, he could be on par with big stars from other major sports, including major endorsement deals and all of that.
Harry Sack- March 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm
but yeah he's the Pete Sampras / Tim Duncan / Ben Stein of the HWs
Harry Sack- March 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm
Yeah but the thing about Cain is that he usually looks smaller than the HWs he's fighting. The Lesnar fight looked almost like a freakshow Japaneese bout. People love them some freakshows. Cain vs. Carwin - same diff
Cain vs. Overeem - same diff
Cain vs. JDS - again
fACE7biter- March 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm
I don't think the UFC loses money from people watching in bars. Live UFC pay-per-view fights are distributed commercially for approximately $500 to $1,500, depending on the size of the location. Any location that orders the show usually charges about 10 bucks at the door to cover that cost, and then profits off the increased drink and food orders. I don't think sports bars are the problem.
RwilsonR- March 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm
If Jon Jones can't sell a fight, wait until they try to sell Cain Velasquez to the casual audience. I know, I know... the hispanic audience. Still, at best, the guy is bland as Wendy's fries.
rcj5019- March 25, 2011 at 12:01 pm
Thank you Harry.

Even worse is Shogun. He freakin lost to Forrest and Lyoto.

And for real Lyoto is awful. I hate watching him.

There is a difference between simply winning a fight and being a champion.

A champion demolishes people.
Harry Sack- March 25, 2011 at 11:57 am
that Sheen vs. Busey shit would be off the hook right there - DW you listening?
Harry Sack- March 25, 2011 at 11:56 am
Im not trying to shit on Rashad (no homo)but its like ... he outpoints Rampage (old ass rampage - not in-his-prime rampage mind you) and that's a title shot?!?!! WTF? Rashad was snooooozzzing against machida a minute ago and we're suposed to believe he can do anything other than serve as the modern-day dark-skinned Keith Jardine gatekeeper-2011-type fighter?
Rasahad is the "Least interesting man in the world" ... and he stays thirsty my friends.
Rashad vs. Jake sheilds is a military narcolepsy (look it up)device for use in third world countries for crowd control OKAY?
Rashad is the Michael Bolton of fighters
rcj5019- March 25, 2011 at 11:54 am
Sheen vs Busey

Battle of the Crazies
rcj5019- March 25, 2011 at 11:52 am
Sheen vs Jones
Harry Sack- March 25, 2011 at 11:50 am
Chris Brown and a Chair vs. Jones ...
rcj5019- March 25, 2011 at 11:50 am
Harry Sack vs Jones