Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bellator MMA CEO Scott Coker had high expectations for Bellator NYC, the promotion’s second attempt at pay-per-view television, and the first under his watch. The promotion reported that their first attempt in 2014 did just over 100,000 buys.

“This is not something we’re going to go in and out of,” said Coker three weeks before the event, to Brett Okamoto for ESPN.com. “This is something we’re committed to. The company is committed to doing PPV fights.”

Parent company Viacom executed a multimillion-dollar off-channel marketing strategy, investing “20 to 30 times more” than in any previous “tent pole” events.

To me, any [buy rate] in the mid-200,000s would be respectable,” said Coker. “And anything in the 300,000s would be considered a big hit. The PPV business is tough and there’s a lot of competition in the marketplace. There’s boxing fights around us, wrestling events, other MMA shows. But honestly, I think this is the best MMA PPV that’s been offered in 2017.”

David Schwarz of Spike TV talked with Dave Meltzer for MMA Fighting and said Viacom company policy was to not release official PPV numbers. However, Meltzer is expert in estimation.

“Bellator’s June 24 show in Madison Square Garden, based on early estimates, looks to be in the 90,000 to 130,000 buy range,” wrote Meltzer. “The number was along the same lines as the first Bellator pay-per-view show in 2014, headlined by Rampage Jackson vs. King Mo Lawal.”

While that is just half of what Coker described as respectable and a third of a big hit, it is in keeping with other recent combat sports PPV events. Meltzer sees it as part of a larger trend, where the biggest events get bigger, and the rest get smaller.

 

UFC 213 on July 8 was supposed to have middleweight champion Michael Bisping vs. GSP, but that fell apart. It was supposed to have bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw, but that fell apart. It was supposed to have Donald Cerrone vs. Robbie Lawler, but that fell apart. It ended up being headlined by women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko, and that fell apart in the last 24 hours. Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight belt ended up being the main event. Meltzer estimates that UFC 213 got 125,000 to 150,000 buys, the lowest numbers over the past decade, except for a few shows headlined by men’s flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.

 

The weekend between the two there was a boxing PPV headlined by a rematch between Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev, and that got an estimated 130,000 buys. Their previous bout in November got approximately 160,000 buys.

As Meltzer discerned though, the big shows are getting bigger. The biggest ever will happen on August 26, when UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor boxes the greatest boxer of his generation Floyd Mayweather. Promotional materials sent to potential sponsors predict 7 million buys in the U.S. and another 1.4 million in the UK. And that is at $100. Add in sponsorships, and this could be the planet’s first billion dollar combat sports event.