2017 hasn’t had very good pay-per-view sales so far for the UFC.
2016 has been a banner year for the UFC, with an estimated total of 8.37 million pay-per-view sales in the year. This has been anchored on huge selling events that featured Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey.
Unfortunately, those two megastars haven’t been around this year, and the PPV numbers have suffered. Jones vs Cormier 2 was the first and only big event so far, and based on estimates, none of the cards this year drew over 300,000 buys. To put things in perspective, one McGregor PPV last year (UFC 202) drew more than the combined total of the 6 PPV events in 2017 so far.
With the UFC selling the company for over $4 billion (and even rumored to be spending more), it’s no secret that WME-IMG will want to get returns on their investment as soon as possible.
The numbers from the past couple of years show that the days where the promotion can draw well on brand recognition alone are gone. Seems like people care more about specific stars these days, and how many of these PPV draws do they have left?
With Rousey basically retired, and McGregor off to boxing — where UFC brass are worrying about him never returning — who else can sell?
Georges St-Pierre is returning (likely against Bisping in New York), but that’s a tough match up for the smaller, aging, former champion, so how long will they have him on the roster? Jones seems to be their last remaining draw, but how often can he fight, how much can he draw, and how reliable can he be moving forward?
Can the UFC build new stars soon, or will they have to take a page from Conor vs Floyd and resort to more “creative” matchmaking to get more people buying? The sky isn’t exactly falling just yet, but if these results continue, White and company are bound to feel (even more) pressure from the new owners in WME-IMG.
*Note: 2nd graph in the video should say 2016, not 2018