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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.

Unlike UFC 173, which looked weak on paper and everyone knew wasn’t going to draw much, it still had Dan Henderson and Daniel Cormier in the No. 2 spot. They brought some star power in what was really the main event. It also had a lot to talk about after, due to T.J. Dillashaw’s upset win over Renan Barao.

This show didn’t have much interest going in. But most of the time, those type of shows deliver good action. This had none of that. It wasn’t terrible, but there was no fight you needed to see. As a likely sign of how the show went, Dana White didn’t even attend the post-fight press conference.”

In response to Meltzer’s story, our twitter friend @Niko138 added some inside information that suggests the UFC 174 buyrate was beyond dismal. Treat this as a rumor for now, but holy crap:

I’ve heard from a couple of people who would know, that early estimates of 174 buys have it just a bit under 100k. The sole reason I am posting about this (I normally try not to be one of those ratings/buys posters who everyone hates) is because if the show truly did this bad, it will be a good thing for us fans who complain about watered down cards. The UFC’s core audience was really being tested with this card, to see how much they could get away with buys wise, for a card with absolutely no drawing power to the casual viewer.

If this is the case, it sends a strong message to the UFC that the watered down cards are no longer going over with fans. For me, considering the cards are $60 and there is 14 a year…this is great news.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the number that comes out in the press is just above that, like 125…If you see the number come out around that area, then trust me, it did under 100k. This has to piss Dana off to no end considering the Bellator show did do a legit 100k

This is really interesting stuff to me, because like I said.. if true, the UFC is going to realize they can’t keep putting on shows like this as a numbered PPV, and expect its fans to continuously just blindly shell out the cash.

That’s a step in the right direction.. they know they are losing PPV buys, and hopefully they step their game up to fix it, by putting on more big fights per card. We can hope anyway.

So, a couple things. MMAPayout’s PPV Blue Book only dates back to UFC 57 in February 2006, and doesn’t show any UFC pay-per-view doing less than 140k buys. But according to Wikipedia (I know, I know), the last UFC PPV that did under 100k buys was UFC 53: Heavy Hitters, which took in just 90,000 buys in June 2005. In other words, you have to go back nine years to find a UFC PPV that performed as terribly as UFC 174 allegedly did.

My other thought is this: “Putting on more big fights per card” is not necessarily the answer. After years of seeing these UFC buyrates ebb and flow, my totally non-scientific conclusion is that 1) casual UFC fans only care about who’s fighting in the main event, and 2) nobody cares about little flyweights. Seriously. Non-Rousey bantamweight and featherweight title fights have always underperformed on pay-per-view, and it should come as no surprise that the first time the UFC tried to put a flyweight title fight in a pay-per-view main event, it would pull record-low numbers.

So, if the 100k buyrate is accurate — or even close to accurate — it’ll get the UFC’s attention. But don’t expect the promotion to start putting together more stacked PPVs in response; remember they have like 50 events/year to fill out, and they simply don’t have the manpower for it. Instead, the UFC’s major takeaway will probably be this: If we have to put a flyweight title fight on a pay-per-view card, there had better be a bigger fight on top of it.

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