UFC 96: A Rampage Referendum

February 24, 2009

As UFC 96 approaches, the card will serve mainly as a measuring stick on Quinton Rampage Jackson. The card from Columbus, Ohio is generally thought to be somewhat lackluster. With the undercard barren of high profile names and facing off against a non-drawing opponent in Keith Jardine, the whole of the PPV performance will sink or swim on the ability of Rampage to deliver buyers.

Rampage has been uniquely primed to be a stand alone draw for the UFC. He faced off against Chuck Liddell for the belt, a fight that drew over 600k PPV buys. That was followed up by a title defense on Spike TV that drew one of the largest US television audiences for a MMA fight. After a long-ish delay, his next fight, this time against Forrest Griffin, was given the benefit of an entire season of build on TUF and drew over 500k buys. Rampage had his noted indiscretions after his loss to Forrest, but it didn’t seem to affect folk’s appetite for watching him perform. His face-off vs Wanderlei Silva for a third time was part of a tripleheader PPV that as of this writing has came in at approximately a million buys. Few on the roster of the UFC have such a strong mix of high profile PPV match-ups and cable television exposure via Spike. While Rampage hasn’t had to carry the entire weight of the PPV on his shoulders, he has certainly been put in the best possible position to succeed. UFC 96 will let us know if Quinton is up to the task.

Rampage will also look to take advantage of the Randy vs Brock/ESPN hangover that has benefited the past two cards. Both UFC 92 and 94 bumped up around the million buy level, both benefiting greatly from the level of awareness shined on the sport via ESPN’s coverage of UFC 91. The rising tide from UFC 91 lifted the UFC 92 and 94 boats, with the last two domestic PPV’s outperforming expectations. Just using the old gut instinct, before the gold rush of the past 3 or 4 events the UFC would probably have been happy with a a number in the low 400k buy range for this weak card. With a surplus of new buyers in the market, though, it wouldn’t be totally surprising for this card to possibly bump around or over 500k.

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