Predicting the Business of UFC 117

July 28, 2010

Damon Martin of MMAWeekly reports on yesterday’s UFC 117 media conference call in which Chael Sonnen tore into Anderson Silva yet again.

In one of the most memorable conference calls since Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson took over the UFC 114 call a few months ago, Sonnen let everyone know how he felt about Anderson Silva, while the champion answered with a bizarre nature, much like some of his recent performances.

Early in the call, Silva answered several questions with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ statement, without expanding on his thoughts on whatever subject was broached, and Sonnen called him out for it.

“I’m a partner with the UFC; Anderson’s an employee,” Sonnen said. “There’s a big difference. That’s the reason all the questions keep coming to me because I give a coherent and clear answer that somebody wants to hear, and he sits on a speakerphone in a car somewhere and says ‘yes’ and ‘no.'”

Sonnen took the opportunity to make clear his feeling towards Silva. He believes that Aug. 7 will be the Brazilian’s curtain call in the UFC.

Payout Perspective:

We’re only two weeks out from UFC 117, but there’s still some uncertainty as to how this PPV card will shakeout on the business end.

I’m sure there are a number of scorned fans that plan on boycotting the event due to Silva’s performance at UFC 112, but we’re also likely to see a number of people tuning in for that very reason – UFC 112 ticked them off and now they want to see someone put Silva in his place. There’s probably also going to be a part of the crowd that is willing to forget UFC 112, or simply willing to risk 117 being a dud, on the off chance that Silva can deliver another masterful striking performance.

Just about the only thing we do know is that Silva hasn’t had a stellar drawing record in the past. It’s unlikely that his last performance is going to help – no matter the number of people tuning in to see him get beat.


Fight week will obviously play a large role in how this fight plays out at the box office. This is where we’ll get to see whether Chael Sonnen’s persistent trash talk has been effective or fallen on deaf ears.

I’m inclined to think that Sonnen’s promotional efforts have been hindered by the lack of response out of the Silva camp, but also the over-the-top nature of his comments in general. It often feels like a bad pro wrestling promo when Sonnen hits the mic; the fans aren’t getting the real Sonnen and that turns them off.

Nonetheless, I would make every effort to get Sonnen on ESPN and in USA Today over the next week. Let this be a case study and help the UFC determine where that line exists between good hype and detrimental hype.

I suspect this Sunday’s UFC on Versus 2 will also play a small role in generating hype for Silva-Sonnen, especially if Jones performs to his own expectations. A good piece of corollary programming like a free Spike/Versus card that delivers exciting match-ups is always a useful tool for building a PPV event, because it engages the fans and increases the influence of promotional content during that engagement.

6 Responses to “Predicting the Business of UFC 117”

  1. Machiel Van on July 28th, 2010 10:24 AM

    Two factors to consider: It will have been over a month since the last major UFC card and fans may be hungry (the past few weeks have been pretty quiet on the MMA news front, which is why the Kaufmann/Modaferri fight received so much coverage). However, it’s also possible that people will be saving their money for UFC 118 in a few weeks, which features the intriguing Couture/Toney bout as well as BJ Penn trying to recapture the lightweight title. I’m inclined to believe that UFC 117 is more appealing to hardcore fans, while UFC 118 will cater more to casual fans (a casual fan will instantly recognize BJ Penn, Couture, and maybe Kenny Florian, and some boxing fans will undoubtedly be curious about Toney, while the same fan may not know Fitch, Nelson, Sonnen, etc.). Based on the second factor, which is probably more significant, UFC 118 should significantly outsell UFC 117, which will probably still do a solid number (I’ll guess 400,000 – 500,000 buys).

  2. Machiel Van on July 28th, 2010 10:30 AM

    It’s really hard to say how it will perform, but I agree that the UFC on Versus 2 card is strategically placed to attract people to UFC 117, and a strong night of performances on Sunday could certainly boost the buyrate the following Saturday. Whatever the outcome, I know I’m immensely excited for all the major MMA events this month: 3 UFC events, 3 Bellator FC events, 2 Strikeforce events, and a WEC event. Wow.

  3. Stan Kosek on July 29th, 2010 6:38 AM

    I was thinking about 117 buy rate yesterday and I’m having a hard time making a guess. Sonen is doing exactly what I thought he’d do in hyping the fight and I expect Dana to pile on in the upcoming days prior to the event. However they need ESPN or SI to pick up on the trash talking to grab the casual fans. Right now it’s just blasting to casual fans who are going to buy it.

    Title fights tend to do well but Anderson has a poor track record. You have a top 5 WW bout with Fitch and Alves, but those guys have little draw to the casual fan and I don’t think Hughes has a huge draw anymore. Guida/Dos Anjos has potential to be a very entertaining fight. Just looking at past buy rates and seeing they have a Vs. show and I imagine a countdown show I will go with an OK buyrate at 500k, but not a blockbuster.

  4. Stan Kosek on July 29th, 2010 6:40 AM

    I meant they’re blasting him to hardcore fans who are going to buy it, I think Sonen and White can sell this and bump the buy rate but they need to get to casual fans.

  5. Diego on July 29th, 2010 10:41 AM

    I feel bad for Sonnen because it’s really up to him to hype the fight and get fans interested in it. That’s why he’s going over the top – he’s givin’ ‘er all she’s got. After Silva’s last fight there can’t be much interest in seeing his next one, and frankly Sonnen’s victory over Marquart wasn’t a barn-burner either. Sonnen is trying to make up for it with his mouth, while Silva seems to not give a damn. About the only thing this card has going for it is the timing. It’s been a while since I’ve been asked to pay for a card, so I’ll probably buy this one, but I don’t think it will pull the casual fans that are so crucial to making these cards successful.

    I can’t see this card going over 500k, and I think it will be below 400k – which is sad considering the level of talent that will be in the cage that night.

  6. BrainSmasher on July 29th, 2010 7:16 PM

    Sonnen has made a fan of me. He is funny as hell. I heard him say the other day that beating Silva will be like eating Chinese. Once you do it, you will want to do it again 20 minutes later.

    I dont like Chaels fighting style and have never seen anyone fight as if their brain is turned off. Like a tombie. He dont fight smart and dont realize he is in fanger. But i cant helt but to think how popular and entertaining his fights would be as champ trashing everyone he fights. I dont see how he can go 5 rounds with out getting KOed or Subed and he has no finishing ability himself. I would love to see him win but doubt it will happen.

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