Meltzer: Early trends for UFC 166 PPV buys 'hugely disappointing'


UFC 166 was arguably the best show in MMA history. But according to Dave Meltzer, a lot of MMA fans missed out, as PPV buys were disappointing. To anyone who missed this show, you suck.

The fight sold out the Toyota Center in Houston the weekend tickets went on sale. It was the third biggest gate in the arena's history. #2? That was UFC 69, headlined by Anderson Silva vs. Texas native Travis Lutter. #1 was the Rolling Stones.

But according to Meltzer, the PPV buys were another matter.

It’s far too early to get an accurate PPV number, but the early trends are, at least to me, hugely disappointing. When Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson did far lower than any Jones show to date, it had the built in excuse of being one week after Mayweather vs. Alvarez. While the boxing/MMA crossover isn’t that large, that event, when you’re talking 2.2 million buys at $75 a head and the fight that everyone was talking about, that is the exception. Dana White has said that the number (which he wouldn’t reveal) was better than he expected, but he’s also a bigger boxing fan than most.

Various sources have pegged it as lower than the Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Timothy Bradley boxing match seven nights earlier. No national number has been released for that fight either. Like with Jones, this based on earliest samples, looks to be the lowest Velasquez main event. That’s saying something since his last fight was with Bigfoot Silva, who he had massacred a year earlier, and was on a show with a strong undercard.

Dos Santos had knocked Velasquez out once. Dos Santos told people he was overtrained and not himself for the rematch he lost, and was easily the second best heavyweight fighter in UFC history.

There is the argument that the boxing PPV drew a predominately Mexican-American audience, the same audience that Velasquez largely draws from. The idea that after getting together and spending money one week that getting people who as a general rule are not rich, to spend the next week would be difficult. But at the same time, if you have a main event people want to see, they are going to buy it. In addition, HBO replayed the Marquez vs. Bradley fight and had a very strong live main event in Ruslan Provodnikov vs. Mike Alvarado. That fight was expected to be a war and from most accounts, delivered. It was also a show geared strongly at the Mexican-American fan base, which went head-to-head.

Losing FX as a promotional platform for the Prime Time was big, and obviously the synergism of the Spike/UFC relationship when UFC was the prime property the station got behind and heavily promoted those type of shows was huge in hindsight. But they still did well this year with Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche promoted off Fuel, with far less penetration than FS 1, did remarkably well for GSP vs. Nick Diaz, and strong numbers for Jones vs. Chael Sonnen and Anderson Silva vs. Weidman, topping 500,000 as recently as July.

There was the feeling that September through December was going to be UFC’s murderers row on PPV, with Jones, the company’s No. 3 draw, with the biggest heavyweight fight of the era (granted, nobody expected anything close to Brock Lesnar numbers), followed by a show with top draw Georges St-Pierre against a real No. 1 contender in Johny Hendricks, and ending the year with what should be the biggest event since UFC 100 (Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva, Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate, Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne).

The question becomes exactly what do we learn from this and what works and doesn’t work in 2013. While UFC hasn’t had a big draw under 170 pounds since B.J. Penn lost the lightweight title to Frankie Edgar, size seems less of an issue than ever. The heavyweights in boxing in the U.S. have no interest (yes, I know they are big in Germany and the Ukraine, but it’s the brothers, not the heavyweight division, as experts in Germany have told me the minute the Klitschkos are done, heavyweight boxing in Germany will be done as well). The light heavyweight division, the consistently best drawing division in UFC for the last 15 years, didn’t do well last time out even with a dominant champion.

It is clearly more personality oriented than ever before. The first UFC on FS 1 was a huge success because of Chael Sonnen’s ability to talk up the fight. Jon Jones, as great a fighter as he is and as much guts under pressure as he’s proven over the past 13 months, is a personality people don’t like. And that becomes a big question going forward on Ronda Rousey, who followed a similar arch of being this dominant fighting figure who burst on the scene, won the championship, and then the public saw aspects of their personality that they didn’t like.

Arguments have been made that GSP is bland, but you can’t argue his numbers. GSP does work best with an antagonist, and he’s been very lucky to have opponents like Matt Serra, Josh Koscheck, Dan Hardy and Nick Diaz, who were the perfect yin to his yang in creating the heel vs. face, for lack of a better term, dynamic that works. Thus far, we haven’t seen any signs of that antagonist persona in Johny Hendricks, but GSP also drew well (but not as well) with Carlos Condit, and the 20th anniversary show should be a good hook for late media interest.


Ultimately, UFC is still in the big fight business. And the championships are meaning less and less as time goes on. What is working is fighters with many year win streaks that people perceive are in some jeopardy; great talkers facing those types of fighters in title matches; and the old stand-by, the big personal grudge match, whether real or contrived, it doesn’t matter.

It’s become a real contradiction because those who talk the loudest want respect from the main events in the sport. Deep down, most fighters do respect their opponents and with few exceptions, don’t like playing a character, or making up or exaggerating a grudge. Plus, in martial arts, or amateur wrestling, you are taught respect for your opponent and that you do your talking with your actions, not with your mouth. But the public is buying something different in 2013.

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Recent Comments »

Bellator Fan site profile image  

10/27/13 11:56 AM by Bellator Fan

Isn't Meltzer on the UFC payroll now?

dan black site profile image  

10/27/13 1:31 AM by dan black

Zuffa killed MMA.. It's like that song on the radio everybody used to love, but then those motherfuckers had to keep playing it over and over and over and over and over and over add nauseum.. I can barely watch UFC anymore, I usually only watch if one of my friends are fighting.. I don't want to watch the ultimate shadowboxing championships..

rRooster site profile image  

10/27/13 12:33 AM by rRooster

I always invite all my friends over for the ppv's. Lots came to watch the terrible cards over the summer and they were so boring and bad they didn't come to see the last few cards which were GREAT. The UFC can't have ANY watered down ppv's if they want to keep their numbers up. A casual fan who puts down the $60 and gets a boring card isn't going to take that risk again for a while. Also, the post fight show on fox sports shows nearly all of the exciting moments and finishes 15 minutes after the card ends. I'm sure there are many who stream and then just watch the post fight show.

Bobby Lupo site profile image  

10/26/13 10:29 PM by Bobby Lupo

They need 10 Conor mcgregor's to get fans to care

MRXC site profile image  

10/26/13 10:25 PM by MRXC

Ha, tell me how you really feel.

Bellator Fan site profile image  

10/26/13 10:18 PM by Bellator Fan


SKINS site profile image  

10/26/13 10:16 PM by SKINS


Lex_o site profile image  

10/26/13 10:07 PM by Lex_o

Mexicans are buying the boxing match. They also think a GSP gives them turn by turn directions.

fightharder site profile image  

10/26/13 9:52 PM by fightharder

Anyways i was extremely happy when they made the deal with Fox. I would have thought it would give MMA the mainstream push that it need,would create more opportunities and sponsor money for the athletes involved and would generally make the UFC even stronger brand and company. I been disappointed so far and after the news as of late,frankly,also a little worried!

fightharder site profile image  

10/26/13 9:49 PM by fightharder

Still i do want to comment on some of the remarks by some of you here (often by very good poster,who i personally respect for their normally very insightful views).''Now, there are no young guys sporting MMA shirts and those guys are playing Call of Duty instead of streaming fights of guys they don't know''Sorry but this seems like a BS kind of remark for me.Yes the figures went down.But so did the figures for the whole gaming market. And lets face it, THQ was not in the best position,financially,to give the later UFC games the kind of market push they obviously craved. Not a big EA but for sport related franchises they are easily the best developers. Secondly,the dudes that bought the UFC games also bought the Call of Duty games,regardless.As for the apparel popularity,i do agree with that assessment.It simply went out of fashion. But i see it more as an opportunity then as a big problem. The UFC NEEDS to sign an exclusive contract with an apparel company already and start profiting from the sales they make with their athletes and brand (and not keep it in house either because frankly there is not enough aptitude or knowledge in-house...the whole UFC fashion line looks rather pathetic)''The sponsor money has exploded'' That is also simply not true. While he do not know all the exact financially fact we all do know all the individual fighters are hurting. Yes the bigger guys get some money and sponsoring but even for them the market is harsh. The UFC might get a little more then before because they instituted their fee system fairly recently but there just not pulling in the blue chip company sponsoring their airtime on a channel like Fox should warrant. The sport has still a big perception problem.''Fox will precipitate global growth'' personally i am not really noticing that at all. Fox might help the UFC into the mainstream in the States (but other media companies could have done that as well). But 21 century Fox (that's how the media part is called now) did not make a deal with the UFC either in South America (they went with the rivals...very strange) nor in England (beyond me that Skype does not have the broadcasting rights for the UFC) and frankly i am also a little ambivalent about the help they are offering in Asia (yes they are on Fox sport Asia but not in in the Phillipines and i they channel they are on often doesn't carry the Premier league Football matches that are by far the biggest draw for people down there...also nothing in China nor Korea).