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Ronda Rousey debuted at UFC 157 with a first round submission win of Liz Carmouche. Dave Meltzer provided some early PPV buy estimates for the show.
Much of the talk ahead of UFC 157 was how many pay-per-views a show headlined by female fighters could be. Some were predicting in the 700,000 buy range, leaning on a large number of non-MMA fans buying simply to see a historic moment or having been captivated by Rousey's "mystique." Other's predicted a low 200,000 number.
Dave Meltzer gave the first early estimates on the numbers on today's edition of the Wrestling Observer radio:
Over 400,000....they're absolutely thrilled. The show, it was...they had predicted 250. Budgeted 250, I shouldn't say predicted. But I mean, the predictions internally were 250-300. So they blew away their predictions, big time. It's..uh..yeah..it's not as big as I've seen some numbers floating around, it wasn't THAT big, but if you think about what all things considered it was enormous. It was a huge success. Actually, the reality is that it was probably...there was a very good chance that the promotion of Rousey was TOO successful because she's been offered a role in the next...whatever it is...the next Hunger Games movie that they're going to film. And once that happens it's like...you know, who knows? She's making a lot of money fighting, I don't know what those numbers are going to be when they come out when they're released. But she's making a ton of money. They signed her to a hell of a contract because they really did believe...not necessarily that she'd be this giant PPV draw, but in other ways she'd be incredibly valuable to the company. And so far she has turned out to be more valuable than they expected.
They're expecting big replay buys. Big replay buys means 25,000-30,000 more than they have right now. It could do mid fours, maybe more, but that's a nice number to say. Put it that way.
Dave went on to say that Liz Carmouche has to be extraordinarily happy right now -- probably the happiest person to ever lose a title fight in the first round -- and, while shooting down the idea that she made a million dollars in bonuses, pointed out that she made a very good amount of money.
If this wasn't a one-off curiosity driven buyrate that can't be duplicated and was Rousey's actual standard drawing power, that is a fantastic thing. The UFC has very few stars who can draw in the 400,000 range. And there are some compelling opponents out here for Rousey that could help sell future fights.
Dave did, however, have some news that could be of concern about Rousey possibly having already become too big of a star:
Again, we all knew that the destination for her was probably going to be in the movies. Weather she is successful at it or not, we don't know. But we all knew she was going to be there. But it's...it's bigger in that sense than...bigger and quicker than would be perhaps what UFC would want. I think it's cool that they do that but I think they would want it somewhere where she might do some TV or something like that, but not get in the way or her training or her being hungry. You start doing movies and...you know...movies is often, for fighters, the kiss of death. You get pampered and stuff like that and it's hard to switch off and go to training.
It's entirely speculative right now to suggest that Rousey is going to jump to movies full time or lose her drive to fight, but ultimately there is more money to be made in Hollywood for "easier" work if she can act and is able to carry her personality to the screen.
So it's wait and see mode on that move. But, for now, the UFC can be extremely happy with the results of her first headlining effort.
Update by Brent Brookhouse: Adam Swift put some of these numbers in context:
Per @davemeltzerwon w/ strong replay buys UFC 157 could reach 450k. Would rank 48/92 UFC PPVs since 06 (52%). 505k avg since 06, 449k in 12.— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) February 26, 2013
UFC 157 shows Rousey is a viable headliner, but don't get carried away w/ comps to GSP/Silva/Jones/etc. Machida avgs 527k buys, low of 480k.— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) February 26, 2013