2011 UFC PPVs in rebuilding year?
January 10, 2011
Before we dive into 2011, we take a look back at buy rates for PPVs for the UFC. Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer (subscription required) had an excellent analysis of the year in UFC PPVs.
According to the Wrestling Observer, the UFC did an estimated 8,970,000 buys for its 15 shows during the year for an average of 598,000. In comparison, 2009 did an estimated 7,755,000 buys for 13 shows for an average of 595,538. While 2010 has a higher average, 2010 had two more shows. Meltzer factors in Brock Lesnar at the top of the card in 2 shows in 2010 versus 1 in 2009. That one show in 2009 was UFC 100, which Metzler identifies as a special show which garnered an exceptional buy rate (1.6 million).
After looking at the anticipated schedule of fights for the year, Metzler does not believe that there is an 800K PPV buy card this year.
That’s not a negative and this is a rebuilding year for the company, where the goal has to be in making new stars and in particular building the featherweight and bantamweight divisions up to where they can headline PPV shows and draw.
With the WEC merger, expansion into new areas and hints of network exposure, one might expect that PPV buys would increase. However, Meltzer points out PPVs this year lack the huge event that would receive skyrocketing PPV buys. The Rogers Centre show could have been a big card if Cain Velasquez did not get hurt (a card featuring both Cain and GSP defending titles could be huge). This does not mean that the UFC will have a bad year; it just means that we should not expect a dramatic increase in buys.
2011 will be a year for the UFC to see how the new divisions will draw and for the UFC to examine the type of reception it will receive in new locations. Injuries, as always, will be an issue. Due to the injuries sustained by Cain Velasquez and Jose Aldo, the UFC will lack the draw of title fights in those divisions. The numbers show the drawing power of Brock Lesnar and the reason why the UFC would like to have him back. Any potential fight involving Lesnar: Mir, Carwin, dos Santos, would draw a big buy rate and a possibility to hit 800K buys. Meltzer brings up a potential GSP v. Anderson Silva fight that could be the type of fight that could surpass the 800K PPV plateau. Aside from those fights, I do not think any other fighter has the drawing power.
But, that does not mean the UFC could cultivate fighters into becoming big attractions. Prior to his suspension, Chael Sonnen had the talent, persona and self-promotion sense to sell fights to become a top-notch attraction. Jake Shields could be an up and coming star, but a so-so debut had many jump off Shields’ bandwagon. His title fight against GSP will be interesting. One fighter that should be a star in the UFC is Urijah Faber. He has a big fan base and is one of the few WEC fighters that could co-main event a PPV this year.