(“PPV buys are higher than ever, dummies. These goofy Internet fucks know NOTHING. Everything is fine.”—Dana White doing his best impersonation of this guy. / Photo via Getty)
By Mike Fagan
Cain Velasquez became another victim (again) of the UFC’s so-called “injury bug,” pulling out of UFC 180 with a knee injury. This is great news for people who want to see a weirdo holding a UFC heavyweight title as Mark Hunt stepped in to fight original challenger Fabricio Werdum. This is bad news for fans who want to watch the greatest heavyweight talent in the sport since Fedor Emelianenko. It’s horrible news for the UFC, who set up this event in Mexico City to both help cultivate the Mexican market and provide a similar atmosphere for Velasquez that Conor McGregor received in Ireland earlier this year.
It’s another blow to the UFC’s pay-per-view business. UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta told Sports Business Daily that “about 80 percent” of fights they wanted to put on have been cancelled. That’s probably an exaggeration (at least if we’re looking at the entirety of the UFC’s matchmaking), but the reality isn’t much better. Of the 14 events including and between UFC 168 and UFC 181 (including the cancelled UFC 176), only five have escaped an injury to a fighter in either the main or co-main event. That is, 64% of UFC PPVs within that timeframe have had alterations or cancellations to one of the featured bouts at the top of the card.
Combined with the loss of Georges St-Pierre (quasi-retirement) and Anderson Silva (wishboned leg), the injuries at the top of marquee events have led the UFC to its worst year on pay-per-view since 2005. In 2005, the UFC ran six pay-per-view events for a total of 950,000 buys and an average of 158,000 per event. This year hasn’t been that bad (2.22M total buys/277,500 per event), but that’s far below the “down years” of 2011-13. (It should be noted that those “down years” are in line with the total PPV business the UFC did prior to the 2009-10 Lesnar Era.)