Without a doubt, this year has been well below the pay-per-view numbers Zuffa produced last year. The reasons for the losses have been opined as being connected to oversaturation of the market, low quality main events, and a lack of stars, but the most visible reason has been the bevy of injuries that have sunk potentially high revenue events.
Most notably, a planned UFC 133 main event between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans, a fight fueled with a mutual dislike between the two fighters, was canceled due to a Jones' hand injury. NCAA champion wrestler Phil Davis stepped in to take on Evans, only to suffer an injury himself. He was replaced by Tito Ortiz, and the event pulled in a bleak 310,000 buys.
A heavyweight title showdown between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos at UFC 131 in June suffered a similar fate. Velasquez tore his rotator cuff during training, excluding him from the event and allowing Brock Lesnar to fill his role. Lesnar's placement on the card made it a sure-fire million buy show until he was removed due to the reemergence of his diverticulitis. Shane Carwin stepped in, sinking the expectations greatly for the show's success. It only drew 325,000 buys.
The business end of the sport has been the main focal point of the analysis surrounding yesterday's news, but it isn't the only pertinent question to ask in the aftermath. Here are five questions to consider:
- What can we expect from UFC 137 following the loss of the headlining fight ten days from the event?
Lower buys. Obviously, Georges St. Pierre is one of the UFC's biggest draws in the sport, and his absence from the card is going to turn off some fans. B.J. Penn vs. Nick Diaz is far from a terrible replacement however, so I don't anticipate a steep decline in the expectations for this card. Some analysts predicted buyrates north of 800,000, possibly 1,000,000. That's obviously not going to happen unless fans are completely ignorant to the news. I still think the card can do numbers greater than 650,000 buys, and that's a very successful card despite being well below the expected number with Georges St. Pierre headlining
- Will Nick Diaz be available for media appearances now that he's in the main event?
Unless you've been living under a rock, most fans know that Diaz was booted from the UFC 137 main event with Georges St. Pierre for not showing up to two consecutive press conferences. He has historically hated doing press for events, so it was no surprise that he didn't show up in Vegas after ditching out on a Canadian appearance because he lost his passport. White responded by giving him the boot and awarding Carlos Condit the job. Now that Diaz is back in the main event role on the event he was previously headlining, will Dana expect him to do press to pump up the card?
I'm not holding my breath. The UFC has only ten days to drum up more interest in their new main event, and spending a ton of money attempting to push Diaz isn't going to affect the interest all that much. Diaz's challenge to B.J. Penn to make this fight five rounds may be the only thing that can stir up some beef between the two men, and it's too late for that sort of beef to get the spotlight it needs to fuel interest. That leads me to my next question.
More questions after the fold...
Five rounds has been a tough proposition for B.J. Penn in the past. Historically, he's faded in the late rounds against opponents who can press him, and Diaz fits the mold of a fighter who could survive Penn's early onslaught and maintain the pressure to win in the late rounds. It certainly adds a layer of intrigue for the hardcore fans who know how these two stack up stylistically.
Remember when Evans decided to wait for his title shot when Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua pulled out of their scheduled UFC 128 showdown? It didn't work out so well as Evans got injured himself, allowing Jon Jones, his former training partner, to swoop in and take a shot at the crown. Jones won the title, then Rashad got his chance once again, only to have Jones suffer a hand injury in the lead-up to the fight. The entire fiasco sidelined Evans for 15 months.
From all indications, Georges St. Pierre's injury should only require a month or two off before he can return to training and get back into shape for an early 2012 showdown with Condit. That is, unless, something dramatic happens in the meantime. What happens if Nick Diaz pummels B.J. Penn in incredible fashion? Will he get his second chance? What if Georges St. Pierre suffers a setback, or Condit gets hurt? Rumors were swirling that both Josh Koscheck and Anthony Johnson were options for Condit on one-week notice. Time will tell whether it was a good decision to bypass those options.
The strangest decision the UFC made yesterday was the promotion of Brad Tavares vs. Dustin Jacoby to the main card of the UFC 137. The fight has zero interest among fans, and the only logical explanation is that the UFC wants to give fans not tuning into the pay-per-view a treat with Dennis Siver vs. Donald Cerrone. Perhaps it's a move to create some hype around Cerrone. If he can win in impressive fashion, that's possible.