In an interview from September earlier this year, Dana White claimed that Brock Lesnar was never one of the top 5 PPV draws:
"(Brock Lesnar) was never the No. 1 attraction, Georges St-Pierre has been forever. I’ve said that a million times," White stated at the UFC 152 post fight press conference.
In addition to that revelation, White also named the other biggest draws in terms of numbers for the UFC when they head to pay-per-view.
I find this confusing and troubling, I also think that there's a correlation between Lesnar's contribution to the sport, and also the loss of interest once he decided to disco dance during a title fight.
That was the earliest PPV data I could find, but it shows you that there was definitely an increasing trend, the only two consecutive pay per view events to break the 1,000,000 mark were UFC 91 (Lesnar/Couture) followed by UFC 92 (Forrest/Rashad) which seems noteworthy. Also during Lesnar's tenure he headlined 4 of the 7 cards which broke the 1,000,000 mark to date. (Amounting to 4 out of the 5 cards which he headlined)
Here we can see what happened once Lesnar was "exposed".
I'm not throwing these charts together to be a doomsday naysayer claiming the UFC is finished etc. But what I am trying to illustrate is that Lesnar was the biggest star the UFC ever had. He surpassed Chuck Liddell whose name also seems to get a lack of respect as he was the first man to break the 1,000,000 mark.
Revisionist history notwithstanding, the guy did what no one believed he could do. What he lacked in heart he made up for tenfold in his freak athleticism and aura of invincibility. I really don't think he had no chin, he was never knocked out, he was just not defending himself "intelligently" because he just threw the gameplan away once Cain clipped him good a few times. He wasn't a coward and didn't just fold under pressure, that Carwin fight is honestly the second greatest comeback in history (Second only to Silva/Sonnen I)
I don't want to make this seem like I'm claiming he was a better fighter than he was, but he was a bigger star than anyone seems to ever give him credit for. I don't understand why it's a cardinal sin as an MMA fan to deny his place at the top. Maybe it's because he wasn't a real "mixed martial artist", maybe it's because we don't want to acknowledge the heavy crossover between WWE fans. Whatever it is, I think it's petty and weak to try erasing him from the history books because he wasn't nice to DFW.
For the sake of full disclosure here is what the entirety of the data I could find looked like when plotted together:
**the fine print: I'm aware a simple trendline isn't the most accurate way to gauge the progression in this case. However this is such a limited set, at most I had 90 observations to work with. Factoring in that the 7 points which would be considered "outliers" were the focal point of this, I couldn't use any exponential/logarithmic linear regressions because the ones I tried (tried using TSP to do a Least Squares Regression) only served to minimize their impact and made for a very flat line.
It is worth noting that perhaps my own bias is incorrect, and the more complex regressions showed that Lesnar in fact didn't change the landscape of MMA at all. In fact, as I write this unbiased fine print I regret writing this article at all, as it seems I may have disproved my own argument.