UFC 229 draws 2.4 million PPV buys

October 12, 2018

UFC 229 has delivered the best PPV buy rate in company history according to multiple reports including The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer.  The event featuring the return of Conor McGregor and arguably the best lightweight in the world, Khabib Nurmogomedov drew 2.4 million buys.

Broken down, it drew 1.9 million PPV buys from traditional satellite and cable outlets and another 470-480,000 from internet sales on UFC’s web site.  The combined buys surpass UFC 202 which drew a reported 1.5 million PPV buys.

Despite the lack of a long lead-up for this event, it delivered and ensures a rematch between the two despite the lopsided victory by Khabib and the fallout post-match.

Payout Perspective:

The first thing to glean from the news is the number of purchasers online.  This could be due to the use of the “second screen” while watching other events (i.e., college football) Saturday night.  It also means that the UFC likely made more money from the event since more online purchases would not be shared with satellite/cable companies.  All of the indicators including Embedded and press conference views, prelim ratings and google searches pointed to big buy rate.  There was some skepticism with the number of people interested in the fight but the casual fans came out to watch the PPV.

UFC 229: Payout Perspective

October 9, 2018

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time it was one of the biggest events in company history with UFC 229 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Khabib submits Conor, brawl ensues

You’ve likely read all about the post-fight brawl.  Despite MMA fan that like to downplay the incident, this was not how you showcase your product to the millions of fans that watched the fight.  Rather than be professional, both sides were not.  Conor’s antics prior to the night, and Khabib’s during it were both wrong.  It was a disgrace to the sport and overshadowed the dominant performance by Khabib.

At this point, the Nevada Athletic Commission will have to suspend and fine Khabib for some time to make it look like an authority.  With that being said, it’s clear that the UFC will take no action despite its ability to do something about it.  The UFC has maintained its alibi of hiding behind the regulation of a commission to do its bidding when it comes to these types of disciplinary issues.  It is clear that if they wanted, they could terminate Khabib’s contract.  Dana White stated that any fighter from Khabib’s corner would no longer fight in the UFC.  But what about Khabib?

Conor is to blame as well.  His antics have helped put him in the stratosphere of earners in combat sports and brought millions of dollars to Zuffa.  As a result, he’s been allowed to do anything without repercussions.

The whole scenario points to a suspension for Khabib and being stripped of his lightweight title.  We should have Conor face Tony Ferguson for the title and/or Diaz/Poirier winner facing Ferguson with the loser facing Conor.

Ferguson returns to stop Showtime

Tony Ferguson stopped Anthony Pettis in a blood-splattering fight that showed El Cucuy is back.  Both fighters had their moments and the movements in the fight were out of the ordinary and extraordinary.  Ferguson used a somersault to get out of the way of Pettis and Showtime used capoeira moves in attacking and defending.  Pettis was sliced by one of Ferguson’s strikes and was bleeding like a pro wrestler.  He did damage Ferguson as well.  In the end it was the relentless Ferguson that earned the victory as Pettis could not continue due to a broken hand.

Attendance, Gate and Bonuses

The event set a record for an MMA event in Nevada with 20,034 for a gate of $17.2 million.  It eclipsed UFC 200 held at the same venue.  The gate for UFC 229 fell short of the company record of $17.7 million for the UFC’s debut at MSG at UFC 205.

According to SeatGeek, a standing room only seat for UFC 229 went for over $400, with the get-in price at $1,234.  Again, it was second to only UFC 205’s get in price.

The bonuses went to Ferguson and Pettis for Fight of the Night, Derrick Lewis and Aspen Ladd for Performances of the Night.  Each drew the standard $50,000 bonus.

Payouts

The payouts were highlighted by Conor McGregor’s $3 million purse followed by Khabib’s $2 million.  But, the NAC has held up Khabib’s payout pending an investigation in the post-fight brawl.  While it has issued the check to McGregor, it’s held Khabib’s pay pending an investigation

The rest of the payouts can be found here.

Promotion of the Fight

Conor McGregor did not do a “world tour” for this fight which would have probably brought even more interest to the event.  He did promote when needed such as their first press conference.

The press conference which was held between Conor-Khabib prior to fight week was done without an audience but was shown in Times Square.  It was also on ESPN which had to use its censor liberally due to all of the profanity.  Conor’s late arrivals at the presser and ceremonial weigh-ins really put stress on the networks to deal with stretching out the time.  With more losses, networks will get tired of this habit.

ESPN did air the UFC Countdown show on its network in addition to it airing on FS1.

Dana White appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to promote the fight.  Conor McGregor made an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show and shared Proper 12 with his Irish counterpart.

In addition, there were multiple radio ads in addition to the television commercials.  Most of which highlighted the infamous Brooklyn bus attack.

Sponsorships

There were some new sponsors for this event including Conor McGregor’s Proper 12 Irish Whiskey and San Manuel Casino.  The latter sponsor is based out of Highland, California and was shown during the ceremonial weigh-ins.

One of the newest UFC sponsors, Portable Protein Pack aka P3, appeared on the front paneling of the UFC/Reebok shorts.  We may see more of this with existing official sponsors having secondary opportunities on fight gear.

In addition, Air Asia made a significant splash in its sponsorship activation which included stewardesses on stage with UFC Octagon girls during the ceremonial weigh-ins and with signage in the red corner of the Octagon to match the company’s branded color.

It was reported by Ariel Helwani that Conor McGregor signed a lucrative deal with Monster Energy which was said to be in the millions.

EA announced a new edition of its UFC3 video game featuring Conor McGregor.  EA conducted a fight simulation in which Conor McGregor KO’d Khabib in the 3rd round.

In the octagon, Toyo Tires, Harley Davidson, Bud Light, Nemiroff, Motel6, MetroPCS, P3, CircleK, Modelo, Air Asia, UFC3’s Notorious Edition, Autozone and the return of the Walking Dead and Monster Energy held the center. It was clear that there were more sponsors than ever before within the Octano on its corners and canvas.  Harley Davidson had the fighter prep point.

Ratings

The UFC Prelims on FS1 drew 1.3M viewers on Saturday.  The prefight telecast on FS1 drew 373,000 viewers.  The prefight show matched the one from UFC 223.  The 222-prefight show was the highest-rated this year with 431,000.

Odds and Ends

I wrote about the UFC brawl in depth and how the promotion of the fight allowed for this to happen.  The UFC faces a lot of fallout (good and bad) from the event.  Khabib and Conor are facing NAC sanctions for their actions and at least two fighters from Khabib’s team will likely be expelled from the UFC and from fighting in Nevada.  For a promotion that is looking to grow the sport and find blue-chip sponsors, one has to ask whether UFC 229’s brawl was good or ad for business.

Conor went after Khabib’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, a controversial MMA manager that has been linked to terrorist groups if you believe McGregor and some journalists writing on the subject.  Despite these alleged ties, it seems that a majority of MMA fighters trust Abdelaziz with their career.  During the fight, Abdelaziz and members from both camps stayed in the back as the UFC tried to prevent what happened Saturday from happening.

The internet searches for this event were huge.  On Friday, UFC 229 drew over 2M google searches.  McGregor-Khabib drew over 2M searches as well.

Conor McGregor drew over 5M google searches on Saturday.  Derrick Lewis drew over 200,000 and Michelle Waterson drew over 100,000 searches.  “McGregor Fight” drew over 1 million google searches on Sunday.

Derrick Lewis’ post-fight interview was an all-time classic and was one of the reasons he drew as many google searches.  He took off his pants, said Donald Trump called him and told him to be Alexander Volkov.

Khabib appeared at the post-fight press conference and indicated he received congratulations from Vladimir Putin.

Matt Damon turned down the opportunity to be on Saturday Night Live to go to UFC 229.  There were many other celebrities drawn to this event as well and the aftermath had everyone on social media talking about it.

Internal numbers for Internet purchases of the event were up over 60% from Mayweather-McGregor according to Dave Meltzer.  This would be an indicator (although maybe not the strongest) the buy rate surged past the record of 1.6M PPV buys.  White indicated that it did not reach 3 million but was over 2 million.

The UFC received a ton of mainstream coverage due to post-fight brawl.  But, does this tarnish their image or encourage the promotion to try more of this?

Conclusion

Dana White touted that based on the viewership of Embedded episodes and YouTubes views compared with McGregor-Mayweather, the PPV would break the UFC record and it appears he will be right.  Despite the lack of expanded promotion of the event, its clear that the UFC hit all of the trigger points to garner the casual fans to buy the event.  The controversy is whether it was right to include footage of the bus attack or allow McGregor to continue personal attacks on Khabib’s religion, family and friends.  But, the PPV buy rate will likely go over 2 million (say 2.2 million) buys and show that marketing the bus attack footage helped more than it hurt.  There will be a rematch and you can believe that they will show the post-fight melee.

White believes UFC 229 will do 3 million PPV buys

October 3, 2018

Dana White is touting that this Saturday’s UFC 229 is trending to 3 million PPV buys.  If true, it would blow away the UFC record of 1.6 million buys.

White states that the Embedded for the first episode of Khabib-Conor drew 1.7 million views within 24 hours.  In comparison, he states that the first episode of Mayweather-McGregor had 800,000 viewers within 24 hours.  He indicated that the viewership online for the UFC 229 press conference was at 4.7 million views which outdoes the biggest World Tour press conference for Mayweather-McGregor

White estimated that it would be 2 million PPV buys, but now believes that it closer to 3 million.

Payout Perspective:

Will it actually do 3 million PPV buys based on the online interest in comparison to Mayweather-McGregor?  It’s hard to say because comparing Mayweather-McGregor to Khabib-McGregor is vastly differently.  Certainly, The Money Fight’s popularity was due to the fame of Mayweather and the curiosity and spectacle of the event.  But, can White extrapolate the success of the PPV buys of that event and use it as a model for this event?  With predicting PPV buys, its always speculative.  In that past, we have used Google Searches and Prelim ratings to determine the popularity of the event and how that might equate to PPV buys.  In this case, the 3 million number is an aspiration and not a certainty.  Moreover, one must factor in the international appeal of this event as it may not equate to the domestic PPV market.  What will be telling is whether the UFC will release its buys from its own UFC.tv site.

Canelo-GGG II draws approximately 1.1M PPV buys

September 25, 2018

Canelo-GGG II on September 15th drew approximately 1.1 million PPV buys per a report by ESPN which probed multiple industry sources regarding the buy rate.  The report would mean that the rematch fell short of the original fight between the two.

With a suggested retail price of $84.95, the event generated at least $94 million in the United States for the HBO PPV telecast.  The first fight between the two drew 1.3 million buys.  The rematch generated more revenue since the price point was higher.

Golden Boy, the promoters for the event, stated they would not release its official buy rate information but indicated between the gate, PPV buys and digital sales, it did better than their first bout.  The live gate at the T-Mobile Arena drew 423,473,500 from the sale of 16,732 tickets.

Payout Perspective:

The ESPN report notes that streaming PPV increased since the last fight so that may attribute to the low PPV rate.  Regardless of being 1.1 or 1.3, the fight produced and will likely garner a trilogy.

GGG-Canelo 2 will be available in movie theaters

August 29, 2018

Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez are set for their rematch on September 15th and not only will you have the choice of purchasing the event in PPV, you can also attend the card at your local movie theatre.

Dan Rafael of ESPN reports that the fight will be available in more than 450 movie theaters across the country.  Golden Boy Promotions and Fathom Events made the announcement this week.

The price point is usually around $20 for the event.  Fathom Events has collaborated with promotions in the past to show Boxing PPVs.

Looking back at the first fight between the two, Fathom really put together an interesting trailer.

For the rematch, Fathom does it again.

Payout Perspective:

Expect this event to do as well as their first fight.  Fueled by the animosity due to Canelo’s suspension, we can see these two go toe-to-toe for another 12 rounds.

UFC 226 draws near 300K PPV buys according to report

August 15, 2018

MMA Fighting reports that UFC 227 is estimated to have done 300,000 PPV buys.  The event was headline by two title fights in the Flyweight and Bantamweight divisions.

According to the report by Dave Meltzer, the PPV buys are in the same range as the April 7th PPV featuring Khabib Nurmagomedov and Al Iaquinta.

The event was headlined by Cody Garbrandt gaining a rematch against T.J. Dillashaw for the bantamweight title.  Dillahsaw stopped Garbrandt in the first round.  The co-main saw Demetrious Johnson fall to Henry Cejudo ending the long title reign of Mighty Mouse and flyweight.

Payout Perspective:

The indicators for the event did not really point to this card doing 300,000 buys.  The Prelims airing on FX drew 717,000 viewers although it was the third highest on cable.  The google searches for Saturday drew over 1 Million for “UFC 227.”  But, what may have sold the PPV was the bad blood between Dillashaw and Garbrand as it’s a foregone conclusion that Johnson is not a PPV draw.  With Cejudo as champion, we will see how the UFC packages him.

 

Early reports for UFC 226 for PPV slightly under 400K

July 11, 2018

Dave Meltzer reports that early estimates of this past Saturday’s UFC 226 are slightly under 400,000 PPV buys.  Unless this number makes a drastic rise, the numbers reflect the lack of drawing power for the heavyweight main event.

Despite the fact that UFC 226 lost the Max Holloway-Brian Ortega fight, it’s hard to think that the fight for the lightweight title would have increased these prognostications much more.  Based on the mediocre prelims ratings of 668,000, it appears that despite a very good gate, the PPV viewership did not feel compelled to watch.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings reflect an uncomfortable trend of big fights not turning up PPV numbers.  Cormier has not proven to be a draw on his own.  The only times he’s produced numbers was fights against Jon Jones.  Similarly, Stipe Miocic has not produced as a PPV star and the only time one of his PPVs did well (450K buys), it was mainly due in part to the curiosity of CM Punk.  The good news is that the rumors of Conor McGregor returning later this year and Brock Lesnar’s return in early 2019 should help build for at least two big PPVs.  But, the promotion of the “Superfight” between two champs did not seem to work from a PPV standpoint this time around.

Holloway told UFC 223 trending over 1M PPV buys by White

June 27, 2018

Would UFC 223 have scored over 1 million PPV buys if Max Holloway remained in the main event against Khabib Nurmagomedov?  Dana White told the Featherweight champ this prior to his removal from the main event in Brooklyn.

Al Iaquinta filled in at last minute to face Khabib.  The event reported between 250,000 to 310,000 PPV buys.  Nurmagomedov easily handled Iaquinta to win the interim Featherweight title.

MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn reports that Holloway told him that prior to his removal, White indicated that it was trending to over 1 million PPV buys.

Payout Perspective:

Do we believe White?  Probably not, since White is promoting not giving accurate estimates.  There are a lot of measures used to estimate PPV buy rate and its difficult to give a precise number since there are many variables leading up to an event.  So while most would not have agreed with White’s assessment, he may have had the data to suggest it was “trending” over a million.  More likely, it was a motivational tool for Holloway to keep working.  Yet, these types of tactics do not seem fair to athletes.

Report: UFC 225 drew 250,000 PPV buys factoring in TV and streaming purchases

June 19, 2018

Dave Meltzer reports that UFC 225 drew 250,000 PPV buys.  The PPV buys was the subject of scrutiny when an LA Times report noted that UFC 225 drew “less than 150,000 buys” per an industry source.

A UFC attorney came out to call it a “material misrepresentation” indicating it was short by “something in excess of six figures,” but did not provide a correct number.

But the key paragraph on Meltzer’s report on MMA Fighting notes:

Industry sources with knowledge of the number pegged that as of the end of last week, it was estimated at doing about 250,000 buys, a number that would combine both the traditional television purchases and the streaming purchases. That would be lower to what would be expected for the show.

One might suggest that the LA Times report could have factored in traditional TV purchases and not the streaming purchases which could make all parties correct.

UFC 225 was headlined by Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero in what was to be a bout for the middleweight title.  But, Romero failed to make weight and the fight was declared a non-title bout.  The semi-main event saw Colby Covington win the UFC interim welterweight title with a victory over Rafael dos Anjos.

CM Punk made his second appearance in the UFC with a loss in the first fight of the PPV against Mike Jackson.

Payout Perspective:

 From a tech perspective, one might suggest we see more people buying online rather through their TV distributor.  This could be a result of people cutting the cord.  The 250,000 PPV buy report reflects the lack of drawing power on the card.  Despite the fact that Punk’s last appearance on PPV drew 450,000 buys, it was clear that the draw was just a one-time curiosity.  Arguably, with this being the strongest card put together this year, the PPV buy rate has to be fairly disappointing.

Canelo-GGG set for rematch September 15th

June 14, 2018

Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin are set for their rematch September 15th in Las Vegas according to the LA Times.  The deal was made shortly after a self-imposed deadline made by Alvarez’s camp.

GGG did not obtain a 50-50 split as he originally requested.  But, he likely did better than the 42.5% of the fight purse offered by Alvarez.  Official terms were not revealed.

Alvarez and GGG fought to a draw in the last fight in September 2017 and look to rematch a year later.  A May 2018 fight was thrown off course after Alvarez tested positive for Clenbuterol which he stated was related to contaminated meat. The Nevada Athletic Commission suspended Alvarez 6 months.  His suspension ends in August.

Payout Perspective:

With the announcement of this and the Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder fight, boxing is set for some huge fights and PPV events.  Alvarez-GGG drew 1.3M PPV buys and a $27M live gate at the T-Mobile Arena.  Look for similar numbers for this rematch which should improve upon the first due to the longer wait for it.

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