UFC president Dana White surprised a lot of people when he announced that Ronda Rousey would make her first appearance as a UFC fighter as the UFC 157 main event. 2012 was the year from Rousey. A heated rivalry leading up to her title fight with Meisha Tate, her first title defense, and a ton of time in the spotlight made her the biggest name in WMMA. With Strikeforce closing down, White looked to capitalize on her new stardom.
However, that starpower isn't turning into ticket sales yet. Two weeks after tickets went on sale UFC 157 has sold around 5000 tickets with a gate of approximately $600K. MMA Fighting breaks down how these early sales compare to other UFC events:
While the 2010heavyweight title fight at the Honda Center got off to a strong start even that wasn't an instant sellout. But most shows at the Honda Center or Staples Center in Los Angeles have in recent years done more in the range of 6,000 to 7,000 tickets over he first week of sales.
With tickets having gone on sale the week before Christmas, less than 5,000 tickets have been sold for the Feb. 23 date and the ticket gross is in the $600,000 range. That's slightly less tickets, and slightly more dollars, than the company's previous major event in the market, the Aug. 4 FOX show, headlined by Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Brandon Vera, at the same point in time.
It's slower early sales than most major UFC pay-per-view shows. There have been several Las Vegas shows that sold at a similar rate early, but that's a unique market because it's run so frequently, and casinos will buy tickets. Every UFC pay-per-view show, no matter what the first week advance is, will do in the $2 million range minimum, and the arena will be nearly full the night of the show.
So while the sales are by no means dismal, they're certainly not setting the world on fire either. There's plenty of things that could have impacted these first two weeks of sales, not the least of which that they opened sales just days before Christmas. Additionally, the decision to have Light Heavyweights Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida play second fiddle to the women's inaugural Bantamweight title bout may also have an impact.
However, it could be that MMA fans are just not interested in an apparent squash match. As BE's own Brent Brookhouse pointed out earlier today, Rousey's challenger Liz Carmouche is far from the ideal contender. Even Carmouche herself said in an interview with Ariel Helwani that she believes the UFC wants her to lose this fight. Although she's embracing the underdog role, maybe an uncompetitive title fight wasn't the best way to premier "The Ronda Rousey Show", as Dana's dubbed the UFC's foray into WMMA.
Of course, sales could still turn around with 7 weeks still to go before the event. But it was always a risk to feature the WMMA debut as a PPV headliner. Women's MMA is a smaller niche within the already limited niche of MMA and appealing to that audience could backfire. We'll find out when UFC 157 takes place in the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA on February 23.