Survey says UFC growth has peaked

December 1, 2010

This week’s Sports Business Journal’s (subscription required) sixth annual reader’s survey believes that the UFC has peaked in its growth as a sports property. Among the questions posed to its readers, 53% of the responses indicated that the UFC has plateaued. The survey was conducted online over three weeks starting Sept. 27th.

The survey question via Sports Business Journal:

Will UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) continue to grow in mainstream acceptance or has it peaked as a sports property?

Continue to grow 46.95%

Has peaked 53.05%

There were 1,293 responses to this question.

Although readers thought that the UFC growth peaked, another survey question ranked the UFC second behind Major League Soccer as the “Property/organization with the most growth potential.”  (1,295 responses)

Also, the UFC ranked second to last in the category: “Most innovative property.”  The NFL ranked first followed by the NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL and then the UFC with NASCAR in last. (1,291 responses)

Payout Perspective:

It may be noteworthy that the survey was taken prior to the announcement of the UFC-WEC merger. The merger may sway readers that there could still be more growth or confirm the belief that the UFC has maxed out. The survey responses are fairly even (53-47) and coupled with the other survey question believing that the UFC was second among leagues with the most growth potential, it is hard to determine a definitive conclusion.

With international shows, hints of a television deal and the addition of fighters from the WEC and two more weight divisions, it is hard to say that the UFC has peaked as a sports property. 2011 should be an interesting year to watch what the UFC does in terms of growth.

17 Responses to “Survey says UFC growth has peaked”

  1. Tweets that mention Survey says UFC growth has peaked : The Business of MMA -- on December 1st, 2010 10:56 PM

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by MMA Headliner and dilletaunt, said: Survey says UFC growth has peaked (MMA Payout) #fb […]

  2. bombo on December 2nd, 2010 1:33 AM

    it has peaked already…..its kinda getting boring…the whole Dana white thing or persona always talking tough…with joe rogan tough talks gets old as well…the wwe thing that they copied is not good as well…the advantage of wwe is that they can easily repackage the show because its not a sport…ufc cant they have to live with kane velasquez as heavyweight champ….and the way brock was beaten up….im sure wwe fans who tuned in to ufc because theyre wrestler hero is champ would not follow it as much….
    UFC in marketing terms became a fad instead of growing as a mainstream sport….all big mma promotions folded up already only shows mma did not grow in fan base only the ufc fanbase grew…but that is because of the BRAND….not the Brand reached its peaked now its going to the decline stage…

  3. Will on December 2nd, 2010 6:33 AM

    I have to agree! I HAD watched UFC right from No1 to about No70. I really loved the old rules, and if I watch it now its the old ones! No weights,no eye poking or hits to groin, great stuff! I can understand it had to change for TV and to make it a sport the public could watch. It was still good for me up to about UFC 70, around that time it started changing, with all the shit talking, special appearances and questionable stoppages! Maybe it just became to popular, I see ALOT of fat guys wearing UFC/affliction type t’s who obviously do not train. Its a shame because UFC used to be the best thing on TV, and now, I dont even have clue whos in it! Dana and some of the fighters just want fame and money, which is cool, because if I could, I would go for it also! But like I said, for me UFC events are just plain boring now. Sorry UFC!

  4. Adrian Lee on December 2nd, 2010 6:58 AM

    ” Sports Business Journal’s (subscription required) sixth annual reader’s survey”

    Long time reader of MMApayout, but never have I seen an article from MMApayout that would publish someone else’s crap. A survey from annual reader’s who pay a subscription fee? Come on now.

    If SBJ is going to conduct a survey and publish their findings, add some greater detail to the analysis.

    As for MMApayout, you shouldn’t recirculate these types of articles either. Otherwise, add further emphasis that severs Payout from the opinion of third-parties.

  5. Machiel Van on December 2nd, 2010 8:19 AM

    Who cares what SBJ’s readers think? It has absolutely no bearing on the truthful answer to the question. Has it? the most simple answer is: maybe. It will only be shown as time passes. What criteria are people using to judge this?

    -The UFC continues to add more television deals that allow them to get their product into more homes globally.

    -The UFC just folded an entire MMA organization into itself. This is growth of the UFC, even if not Zuffa, LLC. There are now 7 weight classes where there were previously 5 (a type of growth).

    -The UFC is fielding potential television deals which could allow it to reach more viewers stateside.

    -The UFC will enjoy yet another year of record breaking PPV sales.

    -The UFC’s number of annual PPVs has been pretty muched maxed out (some say this is a growth ceiling, but it’s really a demand ceiling. What, are there supposed to be 50 UFC PPVs a year, 100?)

    -TV ratings have begun to plateau and even slip a little.

    -There is stiff resistance and roadblocks in potential new markets (Mexico, Germany, China, etc.) that may prevent the UFC from penetrating into those territories.

    -The Ultimate Fighter show is played out. The format is stale, the shows are beginning to feel like carbon copies, etc.

  6. Machiel Van on December 2nd, 2010 8:25 AM

    I’ll bet that most of the surveyed readers didn’t really take the time to weigh and consider these factors. A much, much more appropriate question is whether or not INTEREST in the UFC has peaked, which I do not think it has at all. There are still plenty of potential fans to be made out there, I meet them all the time.

    I think the fact that TV ratings are waning is just due to the fact that the UFC’s free events have been “less than desirable” (in quotes to tone it down). No Dana, putting on crappy free fights does not “pay the fans back” at all. You did an entire fight night based around Anderson Silva, MERELY to counter a rival promotion, you can’t do something like this again with the same man to pay us back for his transgressions at UFC 112? Weak. Expect more crappy TV ratings for more crappy cards. Or will the evaporation of those three little letters be the cure for crappy free cards? W…E…C…

  7. Machiel Van on December 2nd, 2010 8:27 AM

    Wonder if the waning ratings were a factor in the merger…

  8. jv on December 2nd, 2010 8:59 AM

    I don’t think their growth has peaked. Their growth rate certainly has but that is natural. It is easy to have big growth numbers when you start from a small number,. The loss of Lesnar as some mythical god is also going to add a big hit to growth.

    I agree with Machiel Van that the watered down free shows are hurting their growth. There is nothing that says I need to try this on PPV about those shows any more. I think the over commercialization of the PPV might start to take a toll as well. Does any one remember when Goldberg used to be the commentator for the fights rather than an endless commercial loop for the upcoming PPVs?

  9. Kelsey Philpott on December 2nd, 2010 11:48 AM


    This is simply an interesting discussion point. It’s no different than the survey released a few weeks ago indicating that the UFC might be the best fit out of all remaining league properties to start its own television network.

    I’ll agree, however, that it’s likely most people surveyed by SBJ have no idea what they’re talking about regarding the UFC.


  10. mmaguru on December 2nd, 2010 11:58 AM

    Certain aspects of the business have peaked without a doubt. But I suspect PPV numbers are set to break previous records (even if they are just guesses). House show numbers are probably slightly down (per event) due to less sellouts, but I don’t have numbers to back that up. I think the upcoming UFC with GSP should do well, possibly 800K buys or up as the Canadian market should eat it up so that’s always a good sign.

    As evident by the UFC’s willingness to expand globally, they know themselves that the North American market has all but plateaued. If the UFC continues to grow globally especially if they take advantage of places like Ontario, Brazil, Philippines, etc. there should be more room to grow.

  11. Stan on December 2nd, 2010 1:23 PM

    There’s always the network deal to see if it can push it to another realm. At this point I kind of think it is where it is.

  12. Adrian Lee on December 2nd, 2010 2:39 PM

    @ Kelsey,

    “This is simply an interesting discussion point. ”

    Absolutely agree. Investigating the current market share of viewers vs. the potential viewer-ship base is always an intriguing. I love speculating/theorizing, but I believe that is best done on an actual forum or discussion board.

    However, my comment regarding:

    “As for MMApayout, you shouldn’t recirculate these types of articles either. Otherwise, add further emphasis that severs Payout from the opinion of third-parties.”

    The disappointment is directed towards MMApayout for aggregating the article and the lack of emphasis that this article was published by SBJ. has already aggregated this article and attached as a citation of source. Other websites will likely follow.


    I view MMApayout as a niche media source in the entire MMA online-universe, and i’m just disappointed that you guys cited SBJ’s article when 99.9% of the time you [MMApayout] produce top quality articles, and much of your publications are creative and original issues regarding MMA.

    Make no mistake though, you’re not losing a follower by any means. I’m just sharing my thoughts.


  13. Brain Smasher on December 2nd, 2010 4:14 PM

    The UFC and MMA always seems to have peaked. That is the course it has run since the beginning. It stagnates for a long period of time and everyone claims it has peaked. The reason people feel like that is the events that take the sport to the next level are unpredictable.

    2000-01 the UFC gets sanctioned in NJ, bought by Zuffa, sanctioned by NVSAC, and get back on cable. The UFC grows.

    6/22/02 The UFC after a few spots on “Best Damn Sports Show Period” they stage an entire event for the show resulting in the first fight on tv. The UFC grows.

    11/22/02 Ken Shamrock is back in the UFC and brings his new fame from WWF and Pride with him to fight Tito Ortiz and sets a new modern UFC record for PPVs at the time. The UFC grows

    Between each period the UFC reached a point where noone know where the next step would come from but out of no where an opportunity appeared and the UFC went to the next level. Now the UFC would stagnate again and everyone thinks the end is near. Then…

    2006 The UFC and Spike hammer out a deal and create TUF which took the UFC to unfathomed heights. The UFC grows.

    Since then the UFC has acquired WFA, Pride, WEC, and many of the IFL fighters. Bring in new stars to carry the UFC into big PPVs like Machida, Rampage, Cro Cop, Nog, Shogun, etc. The UFC grows.

    In 2008 The UFC brought in Brock Lesnar and basically double the UFC fans base. The UFC grows.

    A year before these things happen no one ever imagined they would happen. No one knew Brock was coming, Pride would die, TUF would be created and be accepted Just as no one know if and when the next step will happen.

    The UFC got big based on things no one can control. Lot of it comes down to fate. As long as the UFC has yet to get on Network TV like NBC or at least ESPN. Then no one can claim they have peaked. Only when the UFC gets on Network and fails can you claim they have peaked IMO.

    On top of that you have random things that can happen to really grab the attention of the American people and spark their passion for the sport. All it takes is the right fighters with the right personality to come along. Maybe ABC saw Silvas last fights and invited him to “Dancing with the Stars” and he wins. Maybe another star from another sport cross’ over with success. Maybe BJ Penn stomps Floyd Mayweather in a street-fight. The next shot in the arm can come from anywhere at anytime.

  14. rick on December 3rd, 2010 2:27 AM

    Thanks Brain very well put and thought out with facts to back it up! Most of the other poster seemed a little Anti-ufc, but whatever! IMHO i dont really think MMA has peaked at all, and because the way things are right now, I dont think UFC has either, at this point of the game they kind of go together! Sure peeps can have opinions, everyone can, but the money that the UFC is making tells another story. Also the new MMA promotions out there coming up all the time also tell another story. So yall say what you want, but i beg to differ and personaly will continue to support all MMA cuz i love to watch it (strikeforce, ufc, hdnet, ultimate fighter, unleashed,wec wrekcage, etc)! Stop trying to analyze a whole freaking sport based on personal preferences!! MY GOODNESS!!

  15. Jose Mendoza on December 3rd, 2010 12:59 PM


    I have to agree with you here. In the past, you can attribute huge jumps in growth based on some pretty monumental events.

    Here is my question to everyone. Will the UFC continue to grow in North America when GSP, Lesnar, and maybe even a GSP retire from MMA? Next year, Cro Cop, Nog, Randy, Chuck, and others like Hughes will most likely call it quits.I think the UFC is leveraging their growth on a more international stage now as it may appear that MMA may stagnate a bit in North America until they can get a network TV deal, something they have been trying to do for 4 years.

    It is also interesting to see if they will continue to create stars in North America, b/c it will be much much easier for them to create stars in other countries as they hope to start an MMA boom in those new markets.

  16. BrainSmasher on December 4th, 2010 6:44 AM

    To be honest i believe the UFC can create stars from any country they want. If they want American champs they can do it. Just as they manufactured UK title contender Dan Hardy. Fans think 2 fighters are just thrown in the cage and the winner moves on. It isnt that simple. Everyone has someone or some style or some attribute they cant beat. If comes down to match ups. I happen to be very good at breaking down fights. When i had more time it was a hobby of mine to break down fight tape of UFC new comers. For over 5 years i picked UFC fights at 75% success rate and 73% adding non UFC events. Most people are at about 65%. What kind of success would you have if you had access to infomation like the UFC and Joe Silva has? The health and training of each fighter. Maybe fight tapes noone else has. Bad match ups is why Fedor refused to sign with the UFC for 3 fights. He would only take the fight he choose.

    I do believe the UFC is using this time to find and build foreign talent but at the same time they balance that with keeping US stars relevant. They have went out of their way to keep Hughes active by giving him 3 wins vs what were essentially exhibition fights. If not for care selection of opponents they could have got Couture beat into retirement long ago. They just need to buy time to spark interest in other countries IMO. They dont need to keep top guys from each country at the top of divisions. They just need to gets some in meaningful fights and get those people emotionally invested and a large portion will follow the UFC from that point on and it will be up to local shows to find and create talent both of which pop up due to the spark the UFC created.

  17. The Fight Nerd | Business Survey says UFC growth has peaked on December 8th, 2010 10:31 AM

    […] Business Journal’s (subscription required to look at the piece so this is via one of my favorite sites, sixth annual reader’s survey asked their audience if the UFC has peaked in its growth as a […]

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