UFC 102: Payout Perspective

August 30, 2009

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This week we’ll be taking a look at UFC 102; an event held this past Saturday, August 29th at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. The card was headlined by a heavyweight bout featuring Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrgio Nogueira.

UFC 102: The Numbers

Dana White announced during the post-fight press conference that total attendance for the event was 16,088 for a live gate of $1.92 million. It’ll be interesting to see what the comp figures are, because the organization had only sold about 10,000 tickets coming into Thursday.

Fight Bonuses of $60,000 each were awarded as follows:

  • Fight of the Night: Antonio Nogueira vs. Randy Couture
  • Knockout of the Night: Nate Marquardt
  • Submission of the Night: Jake Rosholt

Fighter payouts may or may not be disclosed. MMAPayout.com is in the process of getting the information from the Oregon State Police Gaming Control.

The PPV numbers for UFC 102 won’t be in for another two weeks or so, but most are predicting the fight to do well less than UFC 100 (1720k) and UFC 101 (850k+). However, the baseline comparison for UFC 102 very much appears to be something in the mold of UFC 88 , which did 480,000 buys:

  • The event was another first-time show in a new state (Atlanta, Georgia).
  • The main event was also a non-title fight featuring an aging UFC legend.
  • UFC 88 received similar press coverage and promotional push.
  • UFC 88 attendance (~14,000) & gate ($2.6 million) reflect a similar level of event size and interest as UFC 102.

Here are some of the factors that could influence UFC 102’s buyrate:

  • + The UFC is riding a very strong wave of momentum this year: UFC 94, UFC 100 weekend, UFC 101, and the video-game have done wonders for their brand and increased their core fan base.
  • + Media coverage was probably better than what it was in Atlanta for UFC 88, but not at the levels of UFC 100 or 101.
  • — Non-title fight. Historically they’ve done far less in terms of buyrates.
  • — Second of two UFC PPV cards in the span of the three weeks (especially relevant in a down economy).
  • — Lack of a strong second headline: Jardine vs. Silva is a great fight, but neither men have a following.

The momentum is probably the biggest factor and will likely push UFC 102 beyond its baseline comparison and above the 500,000 mark. Yet, I have a hard time believing that we’re going to see UFC 101 type levels out of this event primarily due to the non-title nature and the fact that it’s the second UFC PPV card in less than three weeks. I’d estimate a range between 450-600k.

Business Storylines:

Nogueira returns to form of old, still a contender: Nogueira looked far superior to the man we saw face Frank Mir last new year’s – no hint of the staph infection and surgery that might have impeded his previous octagon performance. He demonstrated some excellent boxing skills and remarkable ground positioning in the victory, and with this performance Nogueira must be considered a serious contender. However, White was non-committal during the post-fight as to whether Nogueira would fight the winner of Lesnar-Carwin in November.

– Couture signs new contract, many interesting fights still available: Randy Couture has re-signed with the UFC for a term of 28 months and 6 additional fights. There remain a host of interesting fights for Couture, and not just at heavyweight. The possibility of dropping down to 205 and facing the likes of Anderson Silva, Tito Ortiz, or even Lyoto Machida, at some point, is very interesting.

Couture’s legend is only growing and the UFC cashed in big time tonight, not only with the Nogueira fight, but also in re-signing one of their top draws for another six bouts.

Prospect watch: The performances of Todd Duffee, Jake Rosholt, and Aaron Simpson have given fans something to really look forward to in the future. Duffee adds some much needed size to the UFC’s heavyweight division, and aside from Carwin is maybe the only other heavyweight out there that can match Lesnar’s power. Rosholt demonstrated a marked improvement in his stand-up and brings a wrestling pedigree that could potentially allow him to become a serious threat to Anderson Silva. Simpson also displayed a great deal of wrestling prowess and raw power at 185.

The emergence of these three really highlights the importance of prospect development for the UFC; something MMAPayout.com revisited last week with “UFC Roster Moves Make Dollars and Sense.

– Affliction returns: It didn’t take long for Affliction to make an appearance at UFC 102; the first televised event featured Brandon Vera emerging from the locker room dawning familiar black Affliction attire. In the coming weeks we’ll see more from the clothing maker as Paul Daley is set to wear the gear for his debut at 103.

– UFC banner policies loosening?: A small note here. The UFC a while back put into place a new regulatory policy regarding fighter sponsorship banners that required each banner to be of a particular size and colour in addition to placing the venue name and UFC logos in certain places. A few fighters – Demian Maia most notably – had different sized signage and even multiple banners. It will be interesting to see whether this is addressed by the UFC going into UFC 103 in Dallas.

Event taxation likely makes 102 the last UFC event in the state for a while: The City of Portland and Oregon State Police Gaming Commission will charge a combined 12% gross receipt tax on the event. The UFC raised its ticket prices in order to compensate for the exorbitant tax, but ticket sales suffered as a result (especially in one of the hardest hit economies of the US). Unless something changes it could be a while before we see the UFC back in Oregon; especially with all of the new states and countries coming on board to host an event.

UFC 102 saw the debut of the organization’s new fighter vlogs: In the absence of Dana White’s popular youtube videos – which he has stopped ostensibly because he was receiving criticism in regards the lavish lifestyle he lives – the UFC has started following around some of its headliners like Randy Couture.

It’s the next best move for the organization in the short term – continuing the viral marketing is key – and in the long term it’s probably the wiser choice. The UFC, as a continually expanding corporation, needs to consider de-emphasizing White as the face of the UFC and replacing him with the actual product: the fighters. Ultimately it’s the action that drives the business, and the more interest the fighters can derive, the better their events will fare.

UFC 102 high on entertainment value: This event had something for just about everyone and was truly one for the ages. If Nogueira-Couture isn’t among the top ten fights in UFC history it’s certainly close. The stunning knockout power of both Nate Marquardt and Thiago Silva had people jumping out of their seats. The sheer athleticism of Rosholt, Simpson, and Duffee left mouths gaping.

It’s disappointing in one sense simply because it will likely come to light that UFC 102 was viewed by far fewer people than were UFC 100 or 101. Nonetheless, this event probably managed to add even more fans to that ever increasing UFC PPV baseline.

10 Responses to “UFC 102: Payout Perspective”

  1. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) on August 30th, 2009 8:51 AM

    I don’t think UFC would waste valuable fights with Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida on Couture.

    There are plenty of fights down there, but that’s mainly because UFC has been bringing back more old fogeys from the lead age of MMA. Ortiz, Coleman, sure why not? Neither of them will be getting belt shots anytime soon and the same should be true of Couture. You could even superfight him against Liddell again as long as it’s on the undercard.

  2. David wolf on August 30th, 2009 9:39 AM

    Considering that Couture against either Anderson Silva or Lyoto Machida just about guarantees an 800,000+ buy ppv, I believe those fights are distinct possibilities, and if I had to lay money down, I’d bet that Joe Silva books one of those fights within the first half of 2010.

  3. Slim on August 30th, 2009 11:30 AM

    I’m thinking any fight w/ Couture would not be a “waste” and considered very “valuable” in the UFC’s eyes. People love him, and anyone you match him w/ is going to get a considerable boost in popularity. Perfect for both Silva and Machida. Also, I think he may be able to hang w/ both.

  4. Zac on August 30th, 2009 12:08 PM

    I agree with Jeremy. There are fights for Couture, but I don’t see them coming against the likes of Silva or Machida. No matter who Couture fights it will be a draw because the guy is 46 friggin years old and still fighting effectively.

    Kelsey, your last sentence is spot on. Sure this event didn’t draw as many eyes as 100 or 101, but because it was so exciting it probably did add to the ever growing PPV baseline.

    I stated previously that I see 103 doing around 750,000 buys and I now think it will do at least that and it doesn’t even have a title fight.

  5. David Wolf on August 30th, 2009 1:00 PM

    I don’t believe they’ll get anywhere close to 750,000 for 103, especially going head-to-head with Mayweather. To top it off, it’s headlined with a guy that a huge majority of the current UFC fans have probably never heard of, let alone seen fight, along with UFC bust Crop Cop second-from-the-top. Not exactly a stellar line-up against PBF. I’m thinking more along the lines of half the number of buys Zac is predicting.

    And though I agree Couture is a draw against anyone, there are ways to maximize his drawing potential, and even more important, Couture is the perfect fighter to help Machida and Anderson get to that next level of superstardom/drawing potential (assuming Anderson didn’t bust right through that door with his decimation of Forrest).

    Moreover, UFC is having a tough enough time finding competition for Machida: apparently (and with good reason) not too many are eager to step to the plate for a title shot, with Rampage choosing Rashad over an immediate chance at the title, and with Machida’s next scheduled defense being against Shogun Rua, who’s looked horrible against everyone he’s faced in UFC with the exception of a quite possibly washed-up Chuck.

    So, sure, even coming off two losses in the heavyweight division, if Randy wanted to step up against Machida (or, more accurately, the winner of Machida/Rua), let him go for it. Contextually, it’s not that much different from his going after Sylvia in 2007. And imagine if Randy pulled it off somehow…

  6. Adam Swift on August 30th, 2009 4:42 PM

    I believe that Anderson Silva v. Randy Couture is a no brainer at 205. It’s a fight that interests them both. It’s a fight that will draw a lot of money. And it’s a fight for Silva at 205 that won’t destroy any more contenders in the division since he won’t fight Machida.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see that fight as the co-main on the New Year’s show.

  7. Joseph on August 30th, 2009 5:44 PM


    Randy vs Franklin or the winner of Tito vs Coleman is what I see next for him. We do have to take into account that at 46, Randy will be cutting weight plus he will have to deal with the speed and striking that is all around the LHW division. A match against Silva would indeed bring in the buys, but at what cost to Randy’s image and legacy. After losing, Randy needs a big win against someone for big PPV’s again. What about Rampage/Rashad winner or even Chuck? That should do well as well.

    Again, I don’t see Randy getting any better any time soon.

  8. socialwebcms.com on August 30th, 2009 9:32 PM

    UFC 102: Payout Perspective : MMAPayout.com: The Business of MMA…

    Good analysis of the event from Saturday. For those who didn’t see it, yes it was low on marquee name bouts, but big-time on entertainment. Couture vs Nog was a war, and very exciting. Great event….

  9. UFC 102 Payouts « CITY ON FIRE on August 31st, 2009 1:08 PM

    […] MMAPayout has a great breakdown and discusses implications and trends with their recurring “payout perspective”. Check it out here. […]

  10. How many PPV buys was 102? - Sherdog Mixed Martial Arts Forums on September 17th, 2009 11:07 AM

    […] payout has a interesting read on it but the numbers have not come out yet but seems to be falling in line with a 500-700 buys UFC 102: Payout Perspective : MMAPayout.com: The Business of MMA […]

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