Saturday’s UFC 230, headlined by Daniel Cormier’s first defense of his heavyweight title against Derrick Lewis, is currently estimated at doing 250,000 pay-per-view buys, which would be normal levels for 2018.
The number is well down from the 375,000 estimate of Cormier’s title win over Stipe Miocic on July 7, which along with the Jan. 20 show with Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir and Miocic vs, Francis Ngannou, were the two biggest numbers this year outside of UFC 229.
There are a number of factors that probably hurt the number, including the highest-rated college football game of the season with Alabama vs. LSU going head-to-head, and coming four weeks after the biggest pay-per-view show in UFC history with Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor.
The fight also had a short buildup time since it was announced late after the UFC had been unsuccessful in putting together a main event for Madison Square Garden.
The UFC had announced a Valentina Shevchenko vs. Sijara Eubanks women’s flyweight title fight as the main event, a bout that would have likely drawn less than 100,000 buys, and after negative reaction to that as a main event, it was scrapped. They started to work on getting Cormier vs. Lewis, even though Cormier had one week earlier said he wouldn’t be ready to fight until January, and Lewis was on a medical suspension from his fight with Alexander Volkov at UFC 229. In addition, in his post-fight interview when asked about a chance at the title, Lewis said that he wasn’t in shape for that.
Still, it showed that even though Lewis came off his win on UFC 229 over Alexander Volkov as a fighter people were entertained by and liked, they didn’t see him a being a fighter at the championship level or a threat to take the title.
Cormier has been a fighter who has never drawn giant numbers except against Jon Jones. Even as the second fighter to hold UFC titles in two weight classes at the same time, that wasn’t enough to put up big numbers without the right opponent.
It’s also part of the story of the evolving nature of the business, where fans are less and less likely to watch every UFC event each week, but if what the public sees as a huge fight, it can pull bigger numbers than ever before.