UFC 125 gate: $2.1 million, but almost half do not pay

January 15, 2011

USA Today reports that UFC 125 held January 1st in Las Vegas garnered a gate of $2.17 million dollars on 6,978 tickets sold. The official attendance was 12,874.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission confirmed the numbers. 46% of the attendees or 5,896 seats were comped. The main event at UFC 125 featured a main event draw between lightweight champ Frankie Edgar versus Gray Maynard.

Via the USA Today:

Their (Edgar v. Maynard)  title fight generated the second-lowest total for ticket sales at a numbered UFC event in Las Vegas over at least the last six years, edging only UFC 106 in November 2009, when Tito Ortiz battled Forrest Griffin. Twenty-two mixed martial arts shows in Las Vegas beat UFC 125’s revenue, putting it in the bottom half for live UFC gates in Nevada.

Payout Perspective:

Not the way the UFC wanted to kick off 2011. The amount of complimentary tickets seems awfully high. USA Today lists the economic state of Nevada as a contributing factor to the low number as well as the unheralded matchup between Edgar and Maynard. Is this the reason the UFC recoiled when it initially confirmed that Anthony Pettis would fight Frankie Edgar? Were they worried an Edgar-Pettis matchup would fare worse? The third fight between Edgar and Maynard should do much better as it will be Memorial Day Weekend, the UFC can sell the action from the draw and the UFC can support the lightweight matchup with better undercard matchups (e.g., Mir-Nelson, Rampage-Silva).

The New Year’s Day fight date may have contributed to the low gate.Also, preoccupation with other events such as festivities on New Year’s Eve, bowl games and NHL’s Winter Classic (which was delayed for weather and time slot competed with UFC 125) may have caused the downturn.

Another question that looms is the attraction of the lighter weight classes. Can they carry a main event PPV? Aside from BJ Penn at 155, will fans pay to watch a lightweight PPV. I think Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber are the only other fighters that could main event a PPV. Otherwise, main events featuring lighter weight classes may be better suited for Fight Nights. The lighter weight classes are quicker and appear more technical, but there seems to be something that attract fans to the heavier weight classes.

10 Responses to “UFC 125 gate: $2.1 million, but almost half do not pay”

  1. el chango on January 15th, 2011 10:38 PM

    Vegas in general has been having trouble attracting large crowds to most MMA/Boxing fights. Nevada has a 14% unemployment and tourism is down. Also, most high roller expect to get free tickets to these types of events.

  2. jv on January 15th, 2011 11:50 PM

    I read over at Junkie that the fan expo scheduled for July 2 in Vegas has been put on the shelf. If the PPV numbers are bad then you can’t just blame it on the Vegas community. I guess we will see.

    Seems like the UFC and SF are both having trouble selling in their own back yards. I have to wonder if it is a case of going to the well to many times.

  3. mmaguru on January 16th, 2011 5:39 AM

    I’m not that surprised with those numbers based on the decline of gates in Nevada since UFC 100. I wonder how much of the 6,978 tickets sold were purchased to actual fans versus casinos.

  4. jim on January 16th, 2011 10:04 AM

    Just cause high rollers want free tickets doesn’t mean UFC has to give them out free. If demand for the tickets was high the casinos would have to buy the tickets and then hand them out to the high rollers.

    Big companies, law firms, investment banks, etc often use sporting events to wine and dine potential clients. NFL corporate suites are filled every weekend with people who got free tickets — but that doesn’t mean the NFL hands them out for free, the NFL always gets paid.

    If you are forced to hand out free tickets to your event that means demand is low for your product.

  5. Steve on January 16th, 2011 3:16 PM

    “If you are forced to hand out free tickets to your event that means demand is low for your product.”

    … or it means your consumer’s price point is lower than the price you are trying to charge. Zuffa still needs to do some tweaking on their pricing scheme IMO.

  6. Joe on January 16th, 2011 7:04 PM

    Buying this card is an invitation to Zuffa to further water down cards with shittier and shittier fighters.

  7. Mike on January 17th, 2011 12:33 PM

    Not a good sign to UFC’s newest partner, Orbitz. If people aren’t going to fly to Vegas – a vacation destination city – you can be that Orbitz will save its activation dollars for other sports/entertainment partners. Methinks Dana and Lorenzo have their hands full for 2011. Lots of business issues on the line, especially domestically. By the way, does anyone know if they’ve replaced their VP/Sponsorship Sales yet?

  8. mmaguru on January 17th, 2011 5:04 PM

    Definitely on the domestic front Zuffa has to weather the storm. There is lots of potential growth outside the U.S. however.

  9. Diego on January 18th, 2011 12:35 PM

    Let’s keep it in perspective – on paper 125 sucked. Causal fans could not have cared less about any of those fights. I’m not ready to write off 2011 just yet. UFC 126 is pretty much sold out – but then A. Silva is fighting a longtime stalwart in Vitor Belfort, and favorites Franklin and Griffin are on the card as well. Toronto will also sell out. I think this is a sign of saturation, but not necessarily decline. Not just any UFC card is going to sell out – fans need compelling matchups if they are going to fly to Vegas to catch a card.

    The problem with 155, is that before BJ Penn you had Sean Sherk, who was not very exciting, and now that BJ is gone it remains to be seen if Edgar can take up the mantle and be exciting. BJ is a tough act to follow, and it will take time to build up another champion who can draw those kinds of crowds.

    And if the economy does have something to do with this (does anyone know occupancy rates and the average price per room for New Year’s weekend on the strip?) then when it starts to turn around, place like Las Vegas will be the first to benefit.

  10. Kelsey Philpott on January 19th, 2011 9:57 PM

    There are a host of factors here:

    1.) New Year’s Day: people are hungover and unwilling to leave the couch.
    2.) Sports competition: Winter Classic, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl
    3.) Few Draws: Edgar, Maynard, Leben, and Stann didn’t have too many big spenders excited.
    4.) The UFC may have over-priced. It did $2.1 million on 7,000 tickets! Plus, if we all know one thing about UFC ticket sales, it’s that the cheaps almost always sell out. Thus, it probably did $2.1 million on a lot of cheap ticket sales. Crazy.

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