As the UFC winds down a 2012 that saw them garnering mixed results on pay-per-view and in television ratings, the company is looking ahead to a potentially epic 2013.
From Dave Meltzer in the Wrestling Observer (subscription only):
There is also the hope, obviously, that they can do a huge year on PPV if injuries don't get in the way. Anderson Silva is going to the 11/17 show in Montreal. If GSP wins, they are going to have a call out or confrontation to set up Silva vs. GSP. Of course, GSP has to win his match. The idea or hope is to get Silva vs. GSP first, and if Silva wins, go with Silva vs. Jon Jones (provided Jones beats Chael Sonnen) later in the year. The idea is to do the major dream matches this year. If Silva doesn't beat GSP and Jones remains champion, they could move to Jones against the heavyweight champion for a major year-end fight. The idea is if things go right to get two 1 million buy shows, plus big ones when Alistair Overeem goes for the heavyweight title, GSP vs. Nick Diaz if that one works out, along with Jones vs. Sonnen with the idea of five potential 700+ shows, plus Ronda Rousey vs. Cyborg which will garner a ton of attention even if the jury is very much out on what kind of numbers it would do.
So let's look at the possible fights, how likely they are to happen and how potentially big they could be:
- Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre
How likely? 75% chance
Georges St. Pierre has to beat Carlos Condit at UFC 154 and look impressive in doing so. GSP is a heavy favorite over Condit at -345 or better but he's coming off ACL surgery and a long layoff. Let's assume GSP has a 75% of winning the fight, from there the UFC has to convince him to take an extremely difficult fight against Silva. Since they're bringing Silva in to be cage side for the fight, it's clear that the UFC is putting on the full court press to make it happen.
How big? 1 million buys
A superfight featuring two of the UFC's biggest stars should garner enough media and fan interest to break the magic 1 million buy barrier. The fight will be huge in Brazil as well although that won't directly add to PPV buys in North America, it will drive increased interest in the fight and provide another hook for the media.
- Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones
How likely? 25% chance
This fight has a lot of obstacles to overcome to happen in 2013. First off, Jon Jones has to beat Chael Sonnen in April. He's a 6-1 favorite so that shouldn't be too huge a factor. Secondly, Silva has to beat GSP in the first hypothetical super fight of the year. Silva's chances of beating GSP are significantly better than the odds the UFC faces in booking the match, let's say 7 to 1. Additionally neither fighter can suffer serious injuries while winning. That seriously hurts the fight's chances.
How big? 1.5 million buys
Selling Anderson Silva -- the best fighter in MMA history and still undefeated in the UFC -- against Jon Jones -- the man widely considered to be the most dangerous fighter active today -- should be pretty easy.
- Alistair Overeem vs the heavyweight champ
How likely? 80% chance
The biggest obstacle in the path of this fight is going to be the presiding athletic commission and how effective they are at playing cat and mouse with Overeem. He's currently suspended for a year due to a urine test last March. Hopefully he's gotten smarter and will stay clean but only time will tell.
How big? 750,000 buys
It's pretty immaterial whether Junior dos Santos or Cain Velasquez win at UFC 155. While Cain's theoretical appeal to the Latin American market might add a few buys, it won't be more than 100,000. The interest will be in the notorious and visually impressive Overeem fighting for the title.
- Nick Diaz vs Georges St. Pierre
How likely? 30% chance
For this fight to happen GSP needs to beat Condit and either duck or survive a fight against Anderson Silva. Diaz will have to win a contender match, possibly against Josh Koscheck in January. I haven't seen any odds for Diaz vs Koscheck but it will be even at best, with Koscheck likely to be a slight favorite given his wrestling skill set. That's a lot of ifs to plan around.
How big? > 700,000 buys
Diaz is notorious but he's yet to prove himself as a legitimate box office draw in the UFC. A potential humiliating GSP loss to Anderson Silva could hurt the champ as a draw as well.
- Ronda Rousy vs Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos
How likely? 40% chance in 2013, 60% chance in 2014
This fight has two major hurdles to overcome and one minor one: the UFC/Showtime/Strikeforce relationship needs to be resolved. Zuffa wants this fight to headline a UFC event -- possibly on Fox TV. Showtime would like to air the fight. Right now that ball is in Showtime's court as they have the option to extend the Strikeforce deal for another year. The second hurdle is the weight class controversy. Cyborg wants to fight at 145 and Rousey wants to fight at 135 pounds. This is the kind of nonsense that money can solve but I'm not sure if there will be enough money to work it out as long as Showtime is the channel that broadcasts the fight. I could see enough foot dragging on the part of Zuffa and the fighters to delay the fight until 2014 and the absolute end of the Showtime deal. The minor obstacle is Cyborg's difficulties in passing drug tests. I'm hoping she's going to be savvy enough to clean up her act but you never can tell.
How big? 7 million viewers on Fox TV, 800,000 on Showtime
The media loves Ronda Rousey and Cyborg is the perfect foil -- masculine, scary, roided out and foreign. Even on Showtime the publicity surrounding this fight will be big but the real opportunity is to put it on a UFC on Fox event, wallow in mainstream media attention and break all North American television records for an MMA event.
I pulled all these numbers out of my ass so let me know just how crazy I am in the comments.