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Wild Rumor of the Day: UFC 174 Did Less Than 100,000 Pay-Per-View Buys


(*crickets* / Photo via Getty)

Yesterday, MMAFighting’s Dave Meltzer reported that UFC 173: Barao vs. Dillashaw pulled an estimated 200,000-215,000 pay-per-view buys. While that number is certainly on the low end of UFC buyrates, it’s not a disaster by any means. Keep in mind that UFC 169 — a card that featured a Renan Barao vs. Urijah Faber rematch, Jose Aldo defending his featherweight belt against Ricardo Lamas, and a high-profile heavyweight bout between Alistair Overeem and Frank Mir — only earned an estimated 230,000 buys back in February. On paper, UFC 173 was arguably a weaker offering, but the buyrate wasn’t that far off. Basically, it could have been a lot worse.

The bad news is, last weekend’s UFC 174: Johnson vs. Bagautinov event might have done a historically awful, Bellator-caliber buyrate. First, here’s Meltzer discussing the early estimates in his newsletter yesterday:

“It’s too early to get accurate numbers, but every indication we’ve gotten was very bad, and that it showed a steep decline from UFC 173, which was among the lower numbers of the last eight years. UFC PPV shows usually range from 200,000 to 500,000 Google searches after the event, and are usually in the top few searched for items in the country. A bad show may only do 100,000. Bellator’s show last month hit 100,000. A big show can top 500,000, with the shows that hover around 1 million buys usually doing anywhere from 1 million to 5 million searches. This show did less than 20,000, unheard of for a PPV…

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‘Bellator 120: Rampage vs. King Mo’ PPV Did an Estimated 65,000 Buys


(Image via Spike)

According to a new figure being floated by Dave Meltzer, Bellator’s “Rampage vs. King Mo” event on May 17th did an estimated 65,000 pay-per-view buys.

In a way, that’s a success — despite losing its main event a week out from the show, Bellator 120 cleared the somewhat arbitrary 50k buys figure that was being touted as its break-even mark. It’s not a great number, but it certainly could have been worse. (See: Bodog, Fedor vs. Lindland, 13,000 buys.)

On the other hand, 65,000 buys is still less than half of what the UFC produces on its worst day. The question is, will MMA fans who stayed away from Bellator 120 be swayed into buying future Bellator PPV cards now that we know how bizarrely entertaining they can get? If you’re not psyched about the promotion’s upcoming Super Hulk Tournament, you’re just not a real fan.

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The UFC’s Future More Uncertain Than Ever in the Wake of GSP’s Departure


(Photo via Getty)

The UFC can undergo a new renaissance or it can further fade into Toughman on FX-level obscurity—and it’s actions in the aftermath of GSP’s hiatus (and possible retirement) from MMA will determine which path the company takes.

GSP’s departure has come at a devastating time. The UFC is in a rut. TUF has long since stopped being the advertising vehicle/farm system it was years ago. Ratings are down. The worst part of all is that PPV—the UFC’s chief source of revenue—is lagging too. The culprit is a lack of stars, or rather the UFC’s apparent inability to replace the fading ones.

The UFC lost Chuck Liddell. The UFC lost Brock Lesnar. Rashad Evans, a good draw in his own right, is aging, as is the recently-toppled Anderson Silva. Ronda Rousey lost her luster and already put an expiration date on her career.

Now they’re short a Canadian superhero, a man who’s drawn an average of 800,000 buys over the last three years. And there are no young studs to pick up the slack. Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez are not fit to carry the company on their shoulders judging by the buyrates on their recent PPVs. The UFC’s young, great ethnic hopes—Tiequan Zhang, Erik Perez, and Erick Silva—haven’t developed as planned. Most importantly, the strategy of grooming Rory MacDonald to be GSP’s replacement has failed (or has at least been delayed).

The UFC’s future is still on the backs of aging warhorses whose knees are beginning to buckle.

Yet there is still hope.

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The ‘FOX Boost’ Is a Myth: There’s No Formula to Create New UFC Stars


(Benson Henderson peers warily at the buyrate for UFC 164. / Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

By Matt Saccaro

Congratulations are in order for FOX and the UFC. They took a terrible draw in Benson Henderson and made him into merely a bad draw.

Henderson was partially responsible for one of the worst pay-per-view buyrates in recent UFC history — an estimated 190,000 buys for UFC 150 against fellow failure-to-move-the-needle Frankie Edgar. Henderson was so bad that the UFC kept him off PPV for an entire year after UFC 150, instead preferring to use their shows on FOX to build him up. After these shows, the UFC decided to put Henderson back in a PPV main event at UFC 164, presumably in order to see if FOX turned the ho-hum fighter into a star.

I noted the importance of UFC 164’s PPV performance in a previous article:

If UFC 164 can boast a decent buyrate, then the theory that the UFC can use FOX to create the next generation of stars will be proven true, and the UFC’s future will be a little more secure. But if UFC 164 fails as hard as UFC 150 did — if promoting a fighter TWO TIMES on one of the biggest networks on television failed to make that fighter a draw — then the UFC is in trouble. That would mean one champion who would be dead weight on a card, in addition to the champions from the lighter men’s weight classes who have all yet to establish themselves as major PPV draws.

UFC 164 didn’t perform as poorly as UFC 150. It drew an estimated 270,000 buys.

“That’s great! It’s about a 42% increase over last time,” you say? Yeah, that’s true, but let’s look at it another way.

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Sign of the End-Times: UFC 150 Pulls an Estimated 190k Pay-Per-View Buys


(“Sorry Frankie, but based on the terms of your pay-per-view bonus scale — as clearly stated in your contract — you actually owe us $10,000.“)

It wasn’t just UFC 150‘s live-gate that fell way below expectations. According to a new report from Dave “Doom ‘N’ Gloom” Meltzer, last weekend’s Edgar vs. Henderson 2 card pulled in an estimated 190,000 pay-per-view buys. Judging by the MMAPayout.com Blue Book, that would make UFC 150 the second worst-performing UFC PPV since February 2006. And what’s the #1 worst-performing card of the last six years? The UFC 147: Silva vs. Franklin 2 show from just two months earlier, which took in only 175k buys. (UFC 149: Faber vs. Barao didn’t fare much better last month with a modest 235k buys.) Sorry Fric and Frack, Christmas has been canceled this year.

A couple caveats:
Keep in mind that there was a technical issue on Saturday night where DirecTV subscribers were unable to order the UFC 150 broadcast by phone or computer, although they could still order it via their remotes, according to reports. Plus, Bendo vs. Frankie ran up against the penultimate night of the 2012 Olympics, which may have stolen a few more viewers.

That being said…

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Brockwatch 2011: With Lesnar Gone, UFC Scrambles to Make Chicken Salad Out of Summer PPV Schedule

(Pic: MMA Soldier)

It was rampant speculation time across the interwebs on Friday, after yesterday’s announcement that Brock Lesnar’s diverticulitis has returned with a vengeance. “Is Brock done?” we all wondered aloud. Is Carwin vs. dos Santos actually a better fight? Can the UFC rebound from a couple of weeks that saw the main events of UFC 130, 131 and 133 all go up in smoke? And, dear God, are Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz next to suffer some bizarre malady, causing a reshuffling of the only PPV still left in one piece? Nobody knows.

What we do know is this: Brock Lesnar turns 34 in July and twice now since 2009 he’s seen his career indefinitely sidetracked by being the world’s only millionaire athlete to get a near fatal disease from not eating enough vegetables. Age has never been particularly kind to jumbo-sized athletes and even for a professional wrestler, Lesnar’s job history has been pretty flighty over the years. So, while we can’t say with any kind of certainty that his MMA career might be over over, Lesnar’s second bout with a strange digestive infection nobody had ever heard of before two years ago can’t exactly be considered a good thing. Apparently, the first time he went through this the UFC forgot to tell us that diverticulitis is something that sticks around for the rest of your life. Whoops. But we digress. What it all means for Lesnar, dos Santos, Carwin and – most importantly – you, after the jump.

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WEC to Pay-Per-View in June with Faber vs. Brown II


(The first taste is free, but the second dose is going to cost you.)

Taking full advantage of his position at Versus.com, Ariel Helwani just posted an interview with WEC Vice President Peter Dropick where they discuss the future of the organization and rumors of a move to pay-per-view.  Dropick was all too eager to confirm those rumors, telling Helwani that the first WEC pay-per-view will be headlined by the much-anticipated rematch between Urijah Faber and WEC featherweight champ Mike Brown, and it could happen as soon as this June.

If you’re worried about how you’re going to afford all the MMA this summer, you’ll be glad to hear that Dropick also promised the price of a WEC pay-per-view would be less than a UFC event, though he didn’t specify by how much.  As for what else might appear on that card, he wouldn’t rule out an appearance by Miguel Torres, saying he wants the pay-per-view to be “stacked.”

Obviously, the WEC is considering Sacramento, where they’ve done extremely well in the past, as a potential venue for this event, but Dropick said there were “three or four different cities” they were considering as well.  He also commented on the status of the lighter weight classes in the WEC, and the potential for Gina Carano to head up a women’s division at some point in the near future.  The whole interview is worth a read, so give it a look.

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UFC Breaks All-Time PPV Record for Second-Straight Month

BJ Penn Georges St. Pierre UFC MMA UFC 94 GSP punch
(Photo courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas.)
 
For nearly two years, UFC 66 — which featured the light-heavyweight title bout between the organization’s two biggest stars, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz — was the UFC’s best-selling pay-per-view card of all time, with an estimated 1,050,000 buys. Few UFC events even came close to the lofty record, until UFC 91 in November almost surpassed it on the strength of the Couture/Lesnar superfight, bringing in a reported 1,010,000 buys. A month later, the stacked-to-death "Ultimate 2008" card smashed the old record with 1,200,000 buys. And now, if Dana White is to be believed, last Saturday’s UFC 94 show has broken the record again, with an estimated 1,300,000+ pay-per-view buys. That figure even beats the 1,250,000 buys that the Oscar De La Hoya/Manny Pacquiao boxing match pulled down in December. 

Could the UFC be a recession-proof business, with a steadily growing base of consumers? Or are the killer numbers for St. Pierre vs. Penn 2 a direct result of the event’s marketing blitz, which included the flashy new documentary series UFC Primetime? And how long will this new record last? Though there are no bonafide superfights on the schedule right now, DW reminds us that we have Mir/Lesnar, Penn/Florian, Rashad Evans’s first title defense, and Randy Couture’s next fight coming up, so there’s no shortage of great matchups to be had. Meanwhile, the UFC’s competition is thrilled to get 150,000-200,000 buys, which just illustrates the gulf in success between the top MMA outfit in the world and everybody else.

Unfortunately, not all is rosy in the financial realm of Zuffa. Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta’s Station Casinos empire announced that it would be going through a "prepackaged bankruptcy" to avoid being crushed by the $2 billion in debts it accrued when the company went private in 2007. Station has been one of the hardest-hit casino groups during the current economic downturn, which has greatly affected Las Vegas’s tourism and real estate markets.

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Silva vs. Cote Underperforms on Pay-Per-View; A Bad Sign for Brock and Randy?

Anderson Silva MMA UFC Patrick Cote
(“Screw it, nobody’s watching anyway.”)

I know, I know, you’re all antsy to learn how many pay-per-view buys UFC 91 took in, and whether Dana White’s estimate of 1.2 million was either strongly optimistic or batshit delusional. You’ll have to be patient, because numbers from UFC 90 are just coming out now — and they aren’t too encouraging. Says the Wrestling Observer Newsletter:

The trending patterns as a prediction of the buy rate continued to be right on as the 10/25 show in Chicago headlined by Anderson Silva vs. Patrick Cote did 300,000 buys.

Silva has never been a big main-event draw, PPV-wise. His headlining appearances at UFC 82, 77, and 67 all translated to buys in the 330,000-350,000 range. But in the run-up to last month’s Chicago show, the UFC had been trying extra hard to push him over as a fan-favorite, frequently repeating the talking point that UFC 90 was your chance to see the world’s greatest pound-for-pound fighter in action. The Spike TV special Countdown to UFC 90 brought in a record number of viewers, which was seen as a great sign for the event’s performance on pay-per-view, though MMA Payout points out that the strong viewership could have been due to having a high-rated TNA wrestling show as a lead in.

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Randy Couture’s Pricetag: $6-10 Million

Randy Couture Fedor Emelianenko UFC MMA

From The Adam Carolla Show via MMA Mania:

I’d love for the UFC to step up and make the fight [with Fedor Emelianenko] happen. It has the potential to be the biggest mixed martial arts fight to date…It has the potential to do 700,000+ pay-per-view buys which is a helluva lotta money. I think 6-10 [million should be the salary] for each of us and they’re still gonna make a boatload of money on top of that.

Generally speaking, cable operators take half of the revenue for PPV events, which would mean that the UFC gets $22.495 per buyer these days. Though it’s been suggested that the UFC has been able to work out a slightly better deal with its distributors, multiplying that figure by Randy’s estimate of 700,000 buys would mean that the UFC would take in about $15,746,500 from a PPV card headlined by Couture vs. Emelianenko. “Boatload” may not be the right word if you’re taking at least $12,000,000 off the top to pay the headliners. Pay Randy and Fedor $8 million apiece or more, and the UFC’s profit from the broadcast is eliminated altogether. Of course, the equation changes completely if the fight does Liddell/Ortiz-caliber numbers, but its hard to predict if Couture vs. Emelianenko will mobilize the casual UFC fan like UFC 66‘s grudge match did.

In other words, there’s no way the UFC is going to cave to Couture’s asking price. I’d imagine they’re still interested in negotiating — if for no other reason than to take Affliction’s hope of a big-drawing superfight away from them — but they won’t agree to a situation where they’re only breaking even financially. Just as importantly, paying headliners that much money for a single fight sets a precedent that could have even more of their contracted fighters giving them grief about “respect.” We just hope the two sides can eventually come to terms, because if the UFC can’t afford to put this fight on, it’s doubtful that anybody else can.

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