Is PPV Dead? Not Hardly



We won’t know the final numbers of PPV buys for UFC 202 right away, but it would be a safe bet to assume it did over 1 million buys, and if you believe the UFC, it’s trending to be the biggest PPV of all time.

If that is the case, through eight events this calendar year, the UFC would be in a position to have it’s best year on PPV in history.

The UFC’s peak year for PPV buys came in 2010. Brock Lesnar led the charge headlining two shows that each scored 1 million buys (vs Shane Carwin – 1,160,000 buys and vs Cain Velasquez – 1,050,000 buys).  That same year, the grudge match between Rampage Jackson vs Rashad Evans also scored a 1 million buys, giving the UFC a record three shows in one year to top 1 million buys. The supporting cast chipped in with monster numbers of their own. Anderson Silva headlined two PPV’s that drew a respectable 500k and 600k buys. GSP headlined two shows that drew 770k and 800k themselves.

2010 finished with an astronomical 8.8 million total buys for the then Zuffa-owned UFC.

Today, in 2016, the cast of headliners is smaller. Off the back of two Connor McGregor vs Nate Diaz fights, Brock’s return at UFC 200 and a potential GSP return later this year, the UFC has set itself up for a record breaking year but the supporting cast brings in smaller numbers.

Here are the PPV buys we know so far:


UFC 195 Lawler vs Condit 300,000
UFC 196 Diaz vs McGregor 1,500,000
UFC 197 Jones vs St. Preux 450,000
UFC 198 Miocic vs Werdum 325,000
UFC 199 Rockhold vs Bisping 320,000
UFC 200 Nunes vs Tate 1,200,000


The early word for UFC 200 was 1.2 million buys but that has yet to be substantiated by the PPV butyrate guru, Dave Meltzer of the Wresting Observer. But if we plug in 1.2 million buys as a placeholder for now, it all adds up to 4,095,000 buys through six shows. Scary to think about what would have happened had Daniel Cormier not had to pull out of his original fight against Jones at UFC 197. Their first fight did 800k buys in January 2015. 1 million buys felt within reach.

This past weekend the UFC and Conor McGregor indicated UFC 196  actually did even more than 1.5 million buys that was originally reported. The speculation now trends towards 1.9 million buys, and while the jury is still out on the final numbers for 196, 200 and 201 (headlined by Woodley vs Lawler, which probably will end up as the lowest of the year so far) it’s clear that 2016 is going to be a big year.

We can only speculate on the remaining four PPVs of the year but the UFC looks to have set itself up to finish the year strong, barring any injuries to headliners.

UFC 203 is headlined by a heavyweight fight, Stipe Miocic vs Alistair Overeem but the card has the supporting intrigue of CM Punk’s first fight in the promotion. 300K seems like the baseline this year, so it’s safe to assume it won’t be lower than that. But is 500k-700k possible depending on how many pro wrestling fans want to see one of their own in a real fight?

UFC 204 is headlined by a grudge match between Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson, and a lot of nostalgia could carry the show to a nice number since it will be Henderson’s last fight, win or lose. Again, is it safe to assume at least 300k? Seems to be the low water mark for this year and Bisping vs Henderson is a nice, if not great, headliner.

And then the show every fighter wants to get on is UFC 205 in MSG. The promotion’s debut show in New York City promises to be a stacked card. It’s easy to imagine something in the 800k range depending on who is headlining. We know every fight from top to bottom will be quality, so it could also become a card that just sells itself off the show as a whole and less about the main event. But if Jon Jones were to be be exonerated for popping for estrogen blockers and be able to headline that show in his home state, the sky feels like the limit.

Finally, UFC 206 was recently announced for Toronto to end the year. Exactly four months from when Georges St-Pierre returned to the USADA testing pool for drug use. GSP making his return in Canada and going for the welterweight title against Tyron Woodley would be an amazing way to end the year on PPV. GSP’s last fight on PPV vs Johnny Hendricks scored 630k buys. Would his return net somewhere in the 600k-800k range? Depending on a strong co-headline, is 1 million buys possible?

As it stands UFC has three shows this year that we can safely say scored 1 million buys: UFC 196, UFC 200 and UFC 202. If the debut show in NYC, UFC 205, gets a huge headliner, or if a potential GSP return at UFC 206 can score 1 million buys, it would be the first year in history to have four shows at 1 million. This would have all been done without Ronda Rousey, who along with Conor McGregor became one of the UFC’s biggest stars in 2015.

Don’t let anyone tell you PPV is dead in 2016. The now WME-IMG owned UFC is doing just fine at the box office.

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