Brock Lesnar's Illness Puts UFC PPV Growth in Jeopardy

LAS VEGAS - JULY 03: Brock Lesnar reacts after his second round submission victory against Shane Carwin to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship Unification bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 3 2010 in Las Vegas Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The UFC has seen growth in annual pay-per-view buys every year since 2007. That trend is now in jeopardy following Brock Lesnar's decision to pull out of his fight with Junior dos Santos at UFC 131 with a second bout with diverticulitis, in addition to current injuries to champions Frankie Edgar, Jon Jones, and Cain Velasquez.

Here's how the UFC buys break down by year (data provided by various Dave Meltzer Yahoo! articles):

Year Events Buys Average
2007 11 4.9M 445,000
2008 12 5.1M 425,000
2009 13 8M 615,000
2010 16* 9.1M 568,750

* - These figures include the "Aldo vs. Faber" pay-per-view event.

The UFC has sold an estimated 2.6M pay-per-views so far in 2011, including UFC 129. That leaves another 6.5M buys needed to overtake 2010.

Should the UFC keep pace with the number of PPVs it produced last year, the company would need to average 600k buys per event.

The current schedule, however, is more likely to fall short of another 16 PPV events. The UFC has officially announced events up through the UFC show in Rio in late August. Unofficially, they are booked through UFC 137, tentatively scheduled for Liverpool, in mid-October.

Assuming one PPV show in both November and December, that leaves us with 10 more events in 2011. (I should note that the Liverpool show would take place a week after UFC 136, making it unlikely to be a PPV show. But for argument's sake, we'll stick with 10.)

Using that figure, the UFC would need to average roughly 660k buys per event, more than they've ever averaged in any calendar year. They would also have to do it without their biggest draw and three champions out of the five "big" weight classes out with injuries for extended periods during the year.

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