Dear Dana: UFC Pay-Per-View Numbers Are Down, And Declining

Dear Dana,

There is as huge problem with the way the UFC has handled the scheduling of their fight cards in the past two years. Yes, fans love fights, and the UFC has put on more fights in the last year than any other year. Free fights on television are great, but let’s get down to business, and to be specific, the Pay-Per-View business.

Low UFC Pay-Per-View Numbers in 2014

The PPV’s are becoming too shallow. They are either headlined by a single star (UFC 172: Jones vs. Teixeria) or given a bunch of talented top fighters who have yet to establish a huge following (UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler).

There have already been six PPV events this year, and not a single one has gotten over 360,000 buys. The top selling two, UFC 170 and 171, both did numbers close to 340,000, while Hendricks vs. Lawler got just over the 300,000 hump. The other events all fell lower than 250,000 buys.

Historic Numbers

Here are the years with the number of events that have done under 250,000 buys:

2006: 0 (Lowest: UFC 58 with 300,000) (10 Total PPV’s)

2007: 1 (UFC 72: Franklin vs. Okami with 200,000) (11 Total PPV’s)

2008: 2 (UFC 80 (225,000) & UFC 85 (215,000)) (12 Total PPV’s)

2009: 0 (Lowest: UFC 93 with 350,000) (13 Total PPV’s)

2010: 1 (UFC 110: Nogueria vs. Velasquez with 240,000) (15 Total PPV’s)

2011: 1 (UFC 136: Edgar vs. Maynard III with 225,000) (16 Total PPV’s)

2012: 4 (UFC 142 (215,000), UFC 147 (140,000), UFC 149 (230,000) & UFC 150 (190,000) (14 Total PPV’s)

2013: 2 (UFC 161 (140,000) & UFC 163 (180,000) (13 Total PPV’s)

1st half 2014: 3 (UFC 169 (230,000), UFC 173 (200,000) and UFC 174 (Estimated around 100,000) (6 Total PPV’s)

Many, including you, Mr. White, called 2012 one of the worst years in UFC history. PPV’s were at an all-time low, and fighters were getting injured constantly. So far this year, the injury bug hasn’t been nearly as bad, though there has been a lot of failed drug tests. Still, 2014 has started off very poorly, and if this trend continues in the second half, 2014 could easily become the worst year for PPV in the company’s history.

Several reports came in last week that UFC 173 brought in very abysmal PPV sales. The estimate was that the card, headlined by Renan Barao and TJ Dillashaw, sold just over 200,000 PPV’s. The card ended up delivering exciting fights. The problem is that this was not the first event this year where the card on paper was not nearly worth the $60 for consumers.

Just a couple of weeks later the UFC returned to Vancouver with an even weaker card, headlined by Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson. The most anticipated fight on the card was a top welterweight showdown between British Columbia’s own Rory MacDonald and #3 ranked Tyron Woodley. The card was a bust, both sales wise and fight quality wise.

So What’s The Problem?

Is the problem that there are too many PPV events? In 2011, the UFC held a record 16 PPV events in a calendar year. The lowest event had 225,000 sales, a number that 3 events so far this year have hovered around. The problem isn’t quantity, it’s quality Dana.

We have all of these Fight Night events on Fight Pass and on Fox, but that has left the PPV’s with fight cards that do not match the quality of, let’s say, a 2011 card. If you took all of the top fights in June and made them into a PPV card, fans would have been treated to a stacked PPV, one worth their $60.

UFC 174 Official Card Altered UFC 174 Card (Top fights in June 2014)
Demetrious Johnson vs. Ali Bagautinov Demetrious Johnson vs. Ali Bagautinov
Rory MacDonald vs. Tyron Woodley Rory MacDonald vs. Tyron Woodley
Brendan Schaub vs. Andrei Arlovski Ben Henderson vs. Rustam Khabilov
Ryan Bader vs. Feijão Cavalcante James Te Huna vs. Nate Marquardt
Ovince St. Preux vs. Ryan Jimmo Diego Sanchez vs. Ross Pearson
Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy Stephens Brendan Schaub vs. Andrei Arlovski


The altered UFC 174 card would have sold a lot more than the official UFC 174 card. All of those fights are interesting and have fighters who fans can root for. These are headliners, and the UFC fans deserve to have more cards that look like this, instead of what they’re getting.

So how do we fix the PPV problem. I say, less Fight Nights, more focus on PPV’s, invest time in building and promoting your champions, and please, please have the headlining fight be two fighters that fans know and want to see fight.

And if you want to keep the free fight cards and continue with all of the Fight Pass events, then I don’t think fans would mind having the number of PPV’s cut down to 6-8 a year. The only thing we’d ask is that if we’re giving the UFC our hard earned cash for a one night show, it better be worth it.

UFC 168: Silva vs. Weidman II, UFC 129: GSP vs. Shields and the upcoming UFC 175, headlined by Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida, should become the norm for PPV’s. We’ll be more than happy to watch cards like UFC 169 and UFC 174 for free on TV.


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