Friday, June 15, 2018

Lance Pugmire from the LA Times is one of the best-connected journalists covering mixed martial arts. He recently reported some unfortunate news for UFC 225: Whittaker vs. Romero 2 that was held on June 9, 2018, at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

The UFC has struggled for pay-per-view buys — as it did Saturday, when an industry official said less than 150,000 purchased the Robert Whittaker-headlined card in Chicago — while the highly popular, animated former champion [Conor McGregor] who has fought from 145 to 170 pounds went skidding off the rails.

Dave Meltzer, who knows more about PPV buy rates that anyone, outside of the UFC, estimated that CM Punk’s debut at UFC 203 in 2016 brought in between 125,000 and 225,000 extra buys. That’s more than the entire UFC 225 supposedly did.

However, the under 150,000 number was disputed by UFC Chief Legal Officer and Executive Vice President Hunter Campbell, and Pugmire edited the story:

Campbell said listing 150,000 as the number of purchases for Saturday’s event was a “material misrepresentation” of the actual buys and short by “something in excess of six figures,” but declined to provide an actual figure.

Doubt has been voiced from some quarters about the reliability of the UFC VP. However, the most knowledgeable person on PPV outside the UFC is Dave Meltzer, and in his latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (subscription) he was dubious about Pugmire’s initial figure:

The Los Angeles Times reported this show, which was filled with stars, did less than 150,000 buys on PPV. We don’t have any solid figures but other early estimates are far above that.

Campbell’s estimate would put UFC 225 at over 250,000, a far better number. Barring GSP or Jon Jones, the 250,000+ number is normal.

Below is an estimate for each PPV last year:
UFC 208 Holm v de Randamie • 200,000
UFC 209 Woodley v Thompson II • 300,000
UFC 210 Cormier v Johnson II • 300,000
UFC 211 Miocic v JDS II • 300,000
UFC 212 Aldo v Holloway • 167,000
UFC 213 Romero v Whittaker • 150,000
UFC 214 Cormier v Jones II • 850,000
UFC 215 Nunes v Shevchenko II • 100,000
UFC 216 Ferguson v Lee • 120,000
UFC 217 Bisping v GSP • 875,000
UFC 218 Holloway v Aldo II • 230,000

The main event between champion Robert Whittaker and would have been interim champ but he missed weight Yoel Romero was hurt when Romero again missed weight, and no belt was at stake. And with Whittaker out due to injury, there was no means to build his popularity. As the first fight between the Whittaker and Romero did an estimated 150,000, the 250,000 number is actually a pleasant surprise – and indicates CM Punk may have again added significant numbers to the card.