In two days we will bear witness to the biggest MMA event of so far this year, perhaps the biggest fight card we'll get all year. In an age of over saturation, and in a year where we've seen numerous champions get injured and big stars either retiring or in contract disputes, Ronda Rousey and Chris Weidman might be the best you'll get. We're also coming of the heels of UFC 174, which is rumored to be the least successful pay per view event in the TUF era. Buy rates are rumored as low as 80K.
There's a lot riding on the success of UFC 175, UFC 176 might need to be cancelled, UFC 182 was pushed back a week, UFC 181 had a change of venue, and UFC 177 is less than eight weeks away and has no official fights. The rumored fight for UFC 177 is a rematch of a fight that didn't sell well either. Of course having TJ Dillishaw as the new champ, a good looking American knock out machine, might change things...I don't see anything more than 300K. Johnny Hendricks might be back soon, but there's not a match there with a lot of heat. Cain Velasquez is coming back, but he's been somewhat of a dud in the pay per view buy rates and he's fighting a guy who people consistently overlook. For big fights left this year, it's pretty much Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machid and Jon Jones' rematch with Alexander Gustafsson.
As a disclaimer, let me just say that this is a beast of a main event. Easily a top five fight for me that could be made, not just booked fights but I'm talking match ups period. Right up there with any other fight: Rousey/Cyborg, Jones/Gustafsson II, Jones/Daniel Cormier, or Pettis/Aldo. If you're on the fence...watch this. These guys deserve your excitement. The rest of the card? Well it's basically UFC 174...except with a good main event.
However, if you're less than enthused I certainly cannot fault you. In the past three weeks you've suffered an extremely dreadful pay per view. If you bought that show, or extended any effort to watch that fight I can certainly understand if you're gun-shy about doing the same thing again. There was also an extremely weak doubleheader last week, if you were rugged enough to stick with that until one in the morning you were rewarded with a pretty fun main event...but if you had any sense chances are you DVRed it and did something fun. More than anything, the biggest story this week is still Chael Sonnen getting caught using HGH and EPO. I honestly can't imagine a worse way to lead up to a pay per view. I mean, aside from attending that god awful buttock festival they have planned for friday. You haven't had time to process the last few fights and get properly excited about this one, I get it. The success of UFC 175 says just as much about the Zuffa's ramped up schedule as it does about Chris Weidman or Ronda Rousey.
One of my least favorite things about the MMA media, is to watch an event and forget literally everything that they said eighteen hours ago. I get it, it's human nature...yet still, c'mon guys, you're better than this. So that being said, I will set out my demarkation points for success in terms of buy rates. Yes, I know there's nothing official but there's plenty of people in this industry that have an idea of what the buy rates are. Or if Meltzer was off to a significant degree, there's people that would point that out. So we'll have to use his estimates as a general indicator. I'm also well aware that anything 200K and over Dana and the Fertittas still take home a nice chunk of change.
350K and under: Disaster, sound the alarms. Rousey did an estimated 340K earlier in the year, if this number stays the same or god forbid goes any lower while adding Chris Weidman there's something seriously wrong over at Zuffa. MMA is firmly entrenched as a niche sport. I know the devoted following of MMA will always be somewhat niche, but in past events despite being a niche sport they were still able to capture the imagination of the general sports fan every once in a while. If this is their number? Wow...that's no longer the case.
350K-450K: If adding Chris Weidman does anything less than add 100K buys, you've got problems. The sky's not falling, you're not losing buys with Rousey, but this is not very good, at all.
450-500K: This is my prediction. If the card does over 450K buys, Zuffa knows that there's still some juice left in the UFC pay per view brand. If they stack the card, they can still draw more interest than usual. Obviously, if this is your best show of the year, things need to be changed...but no one's hitting the re-set button.
500-650K: Good, minor tweaks need to be made for big shows...but there's still a good amount of value left in the UFC pay per view brand. Either that or fans are dedicated enough to find out when the big fights are happening. This still isn't perfect but this nothing to scoff at.
650K and above: Just about everything's on track.
I know, I know there's plenty of excuses for whatever buy rate it does, but the problem is that these aren't excuses. These are systemic issues with Zuffa and MMA.
- "Ronda Rousey's opponent is someone no one's ever heard of" That's a problem. A big one. If Zuffa isn't able to build a contender inorganically or nurture the organic growth of a contender then that's a big problem. If they lack the foresight to have a contender ready when things go sideways that's also an issue.
- "Chris Weidman just became champion" Yeah, and? He beat the greatest ever in dramatic shocking fashion twice. That should capture people's attention. Why didn't anyone know who he was before hand? This guy was an organic contender, the fact that they failed to nurture his growth as a contender is a major failing on their part, and a mistake they cannot rectify nor a mistake they even know how to rectify.
- "There's no new stars" See above.
- "There's too many events, people won't pay for a premium when there's so many free events" Well this one speaks for itself.