Brock Lesnar Is Big Business: UFC 116 Did Even Better on PPV Than Originally Thought

From Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer (subscription only):

The latest numbers for UFC 116 seem to be reporting higher. As we figured, there appear to have been a ton of replay order buys based on all the talk about the show, including all the mainstream news show coverage after the event. Various cable estimates have ranged from 1 million to 1.28 million, and as noted, internally it is being said it's the third biggest in history, which would be a lot closer to the former number than the latter number. ... From a PPV standpoint, best per capita markets included Las Vegas, Calgary, Toronto, Minneapolis, Memphis, Dallas, Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Saskatoon, Halifax, Winnipeg, Honolulu and Cleveland.

Matt Bishop comments:

We talked about how we thought this show would do last week on the radio show. It was last Wednesday and we talked about how the hype didn't feel anything the hype for Evans/Jackson. I think I've figured that one out: It's because Brock Lesnar draws in a group of fans who won't be talking about the show the week before the fight. They just buy it. And it's clear pro-wrestling fans buy the show when Lesnar fights, so I think that explains why it didn't feel as big going in, but it could end up being bigger.

Meltzer has also commented on the unusual buy pattern for UFC 116. Not only was it a bit of a creeper, in that there were more PPV buys than the online buzz and advertising hype would have predicted, but it also did better than usual in strong pro wrestling markets and underperformed a bit in the usual MMA hot spots. 

The UFC has long been building its growing audience from fans of Pro Wrestling -- be it by following wrestling with the first season of TUF, or by Ken Shamrock who was known to WWE fans. Brock Lesnar would appear to be the logical conclusion of that strategy and it's working brilliantly.

Even better, the fights at UFC 116 were all so stellar, action packed and dramatic that new fans checking out their first UFC to see Brock Lesnar had to come away impressed. I'd wager to say the UFC made a LOT of new fans that night. 

This was a nice contrast to the UFC 114 card, which drew record numbers -- many of the first time PPV buyers presumably having been drawn by Kimbo Slice and his record setting ratings on TUF -- but delivered mostly sub-par fights. I'd kill to see some market research on first time PPV buyers of 114 and 116 and see which group is more likely to order a second UFC PPV. 

At Yahoo Meltzer puts UFC 116 in context as part of another overall banner year:

Led by two recent shows, the May 29 card headlined by Rashad Evans beating Quinton "Rampage Jackson," and the July 3 event where Brock Lesnar defeated Shane Carwin, Zuffa LLC has already registered approximately 5.5 million buys on 10 pay-per-view events this year, including the inaugural WEC show in April. The company set the North American record for any PPV organization last year with nearly 8 million buys. Barring a slew of major injuries to headliners, which actually happened to the company last year, even conservative predictions for the rest of the year would have the company easily beating that mark.

Another possible mark would be the first year in history that one company topped the 1 million mark for individual events on three occasions. Boxing did it twice, in 1991 and 1996. UFC has cracked a million on both Jackson-Evans and Lesnar-Carwin. There is no sure-fire third match this year to pull that number, but both Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez on Oct. 23 and Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck in December have at least a shot at hitting the mark.

 So once again, the UFC has played their strongest cards in the first half of the year. But unlike 2009, hopefully they'll be able to avoid the plague of injuries that decimated their title fights this year. 

In addition to continuing to mine pro-wrestling fans, and seeking to expand into new demographic markets (expect the LA Hispanic media to be worked HARD in the build up for Lesnar-Velasquez), the UFC will also be taking a bit of a stab at boxing fans with James Toney's UFC debut at 118.

These are the good times for the UFC. Here's hoping they can continue to build slowly and steadily and help the sport penetrate the national consciousness. We're still a generation or more from being a truly mainstream sport in the U.S., until that day, MMA will remain one disaster away from collapse in the States. 

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