Will UFC 119 Be the Worst Performing UFC in Years?

Graph via seatgeek.com click to enlarge.

Seatgeek -- SeatGeek, a ticket search engine -- wrote a blog post analyzing the prices for tickets to UFC 119 compared to recent and upcoming events. See the graph on the right. Here's their analysis:

  • As you likely noticed in the graph above, fan demand is not nearly as strong for UFC 119 as it was for Penn v Edgar, and continues to be for UFC 120 and UFC 121 - in fact it is about 60% less on average ($124 is 40% of the $307 avg. price of the other three events in this chart)
  • There are obviously many factors at play here: UFC 119 is not a title fight unlike UFC 118/121 and the market is arguably not great - UFC 120 is taking place in the increasingly passionate UK market
  • With that said, it is still clear that fans just aren't willing to pay as much for these types of filler events

The UFC has stubbornly refused to lower ticket prices in the face of recession. Where once the UFC would go to a new market like Columbus, Ohio and post a huge sellout, now they go to a new market like Indianapolis or Portland or Boston or Austin and have trouble moving all the tickets. Sure they're putting up some impressive financial numbers at the gate, but I argue they could be making more money and building a bigger bond with more fans if they lowered ticket prices and sold out every event. 

The bigger question is what impact the weak card will have on the PPV buy rates. Earlier this year the UFC had a sustained trough of events that failed to break the 350,000 buy barrier which had been seen as the floor for several years. Even weak international events featuring Rich Franklin as the headliner were getting 350,000 buys in 2008 and 2009, but thanks to a succession of weak cards in late 2009 and early 2010, the UFC audience learned to be more discriminating.

The build for UFC 119 couldn't be worse. The original headlining fight of Frank Mir vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was fairly marginal but had some selling points as a revenge match and a bout to see which former champ was still near the top tier of the division. Frank Mir vs late substitute Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic is just a card filler, nothing more.

With Cro Cop coming into the fight injured on top of old and unmotivated, this fight is an even harder sell.

While hardcore fans may be pumped for the rest of the card, the casuals whose late buying decisions are the life and death of PPV sales have little reason to care.

It will be very interesting to see how low we can go on PPV buy rates for this event.

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