Dave Meltzer surveys the PPV landscap, and notes that the pirates are not winning - UFC, WWE, and boxing all saw an increase in average buys per show.
For WWE, there was a decline going all the way through 2010. But 2011 was up slightly, and due almost entirely to two shows that involved the return of 'The Rock'. In 2012, the company did 3,926,000 buys in 12 shows.
Boxing remains heavily reliant on Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao. While there are potential replacements to their throne, none are proven.
For UFC, the total number of buys was down largely because they ran 13 pay-per-view events in 2012 that generated approximately 5.7 million buys, as compared to 16 the previous year that did approximately 6.4 million. The overall average rose from about 400,000 buys per show to an estimated 438,000.
UFC can't pull the kind of numbers Pacquiao and Mayweather do for their big fights, but they are more consistent. Of the top 15 PPV draws, ten came from UFC, four from boxing, and one from WWE.
UFC President Dana White, did say numbers were down last year, blaming it on injuries destroying so many main events. Injuries hurt not just the depth of nearly every show, but actually killed two planned shows.
Georges St-Pierre is the top pay-per-view draw in the sport, because unlike Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, his shows always do well, regardless of the opponent. Part of that is his appeal in Canada, where he holds the pay-per-view records for any sport.
Ronda Rousey, who faces Liz Carmouche on Feb. 23 in Anaheim, Calif., is expected to get press in places that in the past rarely give UFC major coverage. But... no woman's main event has ever drawn more than 125,000 buys in any form of combat sport or entertainment.
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TOP FIVE SHOWS OF THE YEAR (Based on North American buys):
1. Boxing - May 5 - Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto 1,500,000
2. Boxing - December 8 - Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 1,150,000
3. UFC 148 - July 7 - Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen 925,000*
4. WWE WrestleMania - April 1 - The Rock vs. John Cena 715,000
5. UFC 145 - April 21 - Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans 700,000*
5. UFC 154 - November 17 - Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit 700,000*
5. Boxing - June 9 - Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley 700,000
*The UFC is a privately-held company and does not release PPV numbers. Dave Meltzer is the leading figure in the MMA space at estimating UFC PPV buys.