UFC 207 did approximately 1.1 million pay-per-view buys according to UFC stats guru Dave Meltzer of MMAFighting.com. The stacked card presented dual headlining events including two bantamweight title contests. Veteran, and one of UFC’s most successfully marketed fighters, Dominick Cruz, took on and was defeated by up-and-coming Cody Garbrandt. Cruz has crossed over to other UFC branding opportunities, twice being tapped to sit in the pace car for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The notoriety of Cruz, T.J. Dillashaw and other top names in the sport in action at 207 were certainly part of the buying push. Yet, the night’s marque match-up belonged to champion Amanda Nunes and former division queen Ronda Rousey. Even as Rousey did zero pre-fight press, her return after losing the belt to Holly Holm, and a subsequent 18 month layoff spurred a significant amount of coverage.
It was UFC’s fifth 1 million-plus buy show of 2016. The volume is a noteworthy milestone for UFC and the sport of MMA as it looks to solidify its position as a major athletic event. Only boxing has posted three 1 million buy shows in the same year, which did it in 1996, and again in 2011. Both of those years saw promotions and action by two of boxing’s most prolific fighters in history-Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather respectively.
Comparatively, the all-time company PPV record was set by UFC 202. The Connor McGregor vs Nate Diaz rematch posted 1.5 million buys. By tale of the tape in total buys, Connor McGregor is the sport’s biggest ordering draw.
Rousey’s media blackout didn’t stall buys or cable performance. The night kicked off to strong viewership of the two-hour prelims broadcast on FS1. Sports TV Ratings confirmed Neil Magny’s win over Johny Hendricks peaked at 1.8 million with the broadcast averaging 1.511 million viewers.
Sitting down with Chael Sonen following the event, Dana White responded to Joe Rogan’s criticism of the lopsided Rhonda Rousey based promotion over the champion Nunes. “Everyone was chirping about the promotion for this fight, it was all Ronda based,” White said. “I could have spent $100 million on advertising and nobody would still have known who Amanda was.”
— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) December 18, 2016
UFC is notoriously secretive with its performance numbers. Estimating PPV by way of cable viewership does come close though. An important note regarding the demographic breakdown from Meltzer states the following:
“In particular, the show did well above normal with teenagers, particularly teenage girls and 18-49 women to the prelims before a usual major UFC show, indicating Ronda Rousey’s ability to bring in a different audience than those who usually watch big UFC events.”
Ultimately, 2016 will go down as a watershed year in UFC history. The company was sold for $4.2 billion in July. In the Octagon, titles changed hands in seven weight classes.
As for the bantamweight division left in flux by Rousey’s first loss, Amanda Nunes is a two-time defending champ. The stunning, 48-second destruction of Rousey permanently removes Nunes from the category of unknown fighters. Whether or not the brash striker can turn performance into profit will be the next challenge for front man, Dana White. It would be a shame for the evolution of female competition in MMA if he opted not to give Nunes the same push as he did Rousey going into her next title defense.