UFC ran a big November event at Madison Square Garden for the third consecutive year this month. The first two shows headlined by Conor McGregor taking on Eddie Alvarez and Georges St-Pierre challenging Michael Bisping, did about 1.3 million and 875,000 buys respectively. Any allure MSG brought to pay-per-view purchasers was gone this year as UFC 230 headlined by Daniel Cormier defending his heavyweight title against Derrick Lewis did an estimated 250,000 buys according to Dave Meltzer at MMAFighting.com.
This number demonstrates, as much as anything else, that as popular as Cormier is, his ability to draw on pay-per-view is very much dependent on his opponent. Cormier’s two fights with Jon Jones did in excess of 800,000 buys. His fight with Stipe Miocic earlier this year did about 375,000 buys. His first fight with Anthony Johnson, which had Chris Weidman taking on Vitor Belfort as support, did a similar number.
While not a blockbuster number by any means, the UFC 230 buys is below the median number for the year that currently sits at 260,000. The average for the year so far is 445,000, but that is being held up by the massive 2.4 million estimated buys for UFC 229. Take that show out and the average for the year is just below 250,000.
Even as pay-per-view numbers are suffering without Conor McGregor, UFC stands to earn more from those buys. A report from Sports Business Journal says that Dana White was able to negotiate a new deal with pay-per-view distributors that would give a 70/30 cut in favor of UFC. This is a departure from the standard 50/50 deal promoters and distributors have shared for years. WWE cut pay-per-view pretty much cold turkey in 2014, leaving UFC as the only consistent month-to-month event on PPV. With customers becoming more and more comfortable purchasing events online through the UFC.tv website or app where the promotion gets to keep nearly all of the revenue, the pay-per-view distributors had little choice but to take a lesser cut to avoid losing UFC all together.
Below is a list of 2018 pay-per view buys. All numbers are estimates as reported by Dave Meltzer at MMAFighting.com and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter:
UFC 220: Miocic vs. N’Gannou – 380,000
UFC 221: Rockhold vs. Romero – 130,000
UFC 222: Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya – 260,000
UFC 223: Khabib vs. Iaquinta – 350,000
UFC 224: Nunes vs. Pennington – 85,000
UFC 225: Romero vs. Whittaker – 250,000
UFC 226: Miocic vs. Cormier – 380,000
UFC 227: Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 – 300,000
UFC 228: Woodley vs. Till – 130,000
UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor – 2.4 million
UFC 230: Cormier vs. Lewis – 250,000