If there have worries as to how the UFC’s PPV business would do without multiple major PPV stars to headline several cards a year, 2021 may just go some way to allaying those fears. Helped along by two big Conor McGregor PPV events, the world’s largest MMA promotion put together what may have been the best fiscal year in their 20+ year history.
Buoying that success, however, has been what used to be a staple of years past, and that has been harder to come by during the latter half of the 2010s—regular mid-level draws. Even while McGregor was at the height of his powers, it often felt as though the bottom had fallen out of PPV interest in everyone else. In 2017, only 2 cards had publicly reported buys that crossed the 500k threshold. And 2018 was no better.
In 2021, however, seven events have been reported as selling at least 500k buys (with rumors that UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns came in just below that mark as well). The latest success appears to have been the final PPV of the year, UFC 269: Oliveira vs. Poirier.
Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern dropped the news on Twitter.
.@ESPNPlus sold slightly more than 500,000 PPV units for #UFC269 last month, per SBJ sources. pic.twitter.com/EE5Yuqe7UE
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) January 20, 2022
Part of that could be down to the UFC’s increasing reliance on multi-title fight events, with 7 cards carrying more than one belt on the line in 2021. But the UFC had 6 multi-title fight PPVs in 2018, so that clearly can’t account for the entire story. It seems more likely that the UFC’s deal with ESPN has done a remarkably good job of putting the promotion in front of more fans.
Whatever the reason, it looks like 2021 was very good for business, giving the Endeavor-owned company plenty of momentum heading into the new year. The UFC’s next PPV is set for February 12th at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX. There, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is expected to rematch former title holder Robert Whittaker, with a heavyweight bout between Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa in the main event. Given that Adesanya’s last three PPVs have all been hits, it seems likely his latest will pay off big for the UFC as well.
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