(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.