UFC 232 is reported to have done around 700,000 buys on pay-per-view. To recap, that’s the show that featured UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes defeating UFC Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg to become a two-division champ. The show was headlined by Jon Jones beating Alexander Gustafsson to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.
This is a big number and the UFC has to be pleased. This also re-confirms Jones as one of the big draws for the UFC. That hasn’t been questioned in years but considering the many out-of-cage problems Jones has had, it’s good for him to see this, I’m sure. If anything, I think Jones being a villainous figure will make him a bigger draw. People will tune in to see the cocky and troubled guy get his ass kicked, and every time that doesn’t happen, it builds the anticipation even more.
You can draw parallels between this and many other figures throughout sports history. It happens in all sports. Sometimes it’s warranted and sometimes it’s not. It’s the same way that some athletes will get a pass for something that others won’t get. Or they get scrutinized for things that others don’t. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but mostly it just comes down to some intangible quality that either makes you love that person or hate them. It usually doesn’t make sense, especially when held up to logical thinking. That’s at the very heart of sports fandom, though, things usually don’t make sense. Or they don’t make as much sense as you might think.
I think that, for most people, Jones has an air about him that many would find off-putting. Some would call it arrogance or something similar, but the point is, it’s there. However, his greatness inside the cage overcomes that for a lot of people. I think that as long as you care about Jones one way or the other, he doesn’t care which way that is. You can love him or hate, but as long as you feel strongly about it, that’s fine with him. At least that’s the way it appears to me.
Now, Jones is not Conor McGregor. He’s not as smooth on the microphone, or as quotable, and he’s not as much of a character, but he is the better fighter. He shouldn’t go cartoony with it, but if Jones embraces his inner villain, he should get even more popular as a draw. He has to stay true to himself, though, trying to be something he’s not is a recipe for apathy. Colby Covington has strayed too far from who he is, and that’s why he’s not popular. It’s also because he’s a boring fighter to watch. Chael Sonnen magnified elements of his personality and got some fame from that. Of course, he could never fully capitalize on that because he was never a good enough fighter. He was also a boring fighter to watch, but because he was a character, he was able to become a bit of a draw. Not much, but he was punching way above his station with regards to that.
Jones is not a boring fighter at all. He can be frustrating, with the eye pokes and various other aspects of his fighting style, but that also adds to the villain hate he gets and makes people want to see him lose even more. Greatness inspires a lot of emotion and makes people want to root for you even harder or hope you lose even harder. The drawing power of Jones will be tested by his next fight, against Anthony Smith, who’s not a household name or anything like that, but I imagine it’ll still do decent buys at least.
Back to the UFC and specifically this buyrate, they have to be thrilled by this. It’s almost become a game of Feast or Famine with the UFC, as their shows either do big numbers or horrible numbers. I’m sure they’ll try to get McGregor back on pay-per-view as soon as possible, as they did with Jones. It might keep taking more and more money for that, though, so eventually they’ll likely grow tired of paying him and try to do it without him. I don’t think that’ll go well for them, though.
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