SI's mighty Jeff Wagenheim details a problem.
The UFC had two title fights at UFC 169, Ronda Rousey at UFC 170, Johny Hendricks at UFC 171, and has 11 more PPVs in 2014.
You need a champ to headline a successful PPV. The UFC did 13 PPVs in 2013, and the only one without a champ. Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans vs. legend Dan Henderson did just 140,000 buys, the worst of the year.
Of the UFC's nine champs, Chris Weidman, Johny Hendricks, Cain Velasquez and Anthony Pettis are injured. Ronda Rousey is shooting movies.
Of the remain champions ready to fight, only Jones has major drawing power. The PPV numbers for Jose Aldo, Renan Barão, and Demetrious Johnson are not nearly in keeping with their extraordinary abilities.
Are there enough champs left to carry nearly a dozen PPVs?
Velasquez has targeted a November return from shoulder surgery, so that takes care of one show. If Jones escapes UFC 172 healthy, he's probably good for one more 2014 fight. Weidman goes on July 5 and might have one more in him, too. Hendricks is aiming for a fall return after biceps surgery. Pettis, recovering from knee surgery, also is being penciled in for a fall return, taking on Gilbert Melendez after the two coached a season of The Ultimate Fighter. So, if all goes well, these champions might account for six of the 10 PPVs that'll likely remain after Jones vs. Teixeira.
If all goes well.
Even in the healthiest-case scenario, the UFC will have to rely on Rousey and its littlest belted men -- Aldo, Barão, and Johnson -- to carry the load on the four other PPVs.
So yes, injuries affect all fighters, from the bottom of the roster on up. But the ones that hurt the bottom line are the ones that allow a shiny belt to collect dust.
Of course, maybe expectations are different in the UFC's office these days. The company has grown into more locales and onto more platforms. Earlier this month, it put a light heavyweight No. 1 contender's bout on Fight Pass, its new streaming subscription service. In May, it will present events in Germany and Brazil on the same day. PPVs will always be part of the business model, White insists whenever one of these innovations is announced, but maybe pay cards no longer are asked to carry as much of the load as before. Still, there's nothing like the shimmer of a championship belt. It mesmerizes us, and fans pay to sit in its presence. And boy do we notice its absence.
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