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Underestimating Fedor

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Fresh from breaking the news of the big buyrates that Brock Lesnar's debut brought the UFC Dave Meltzer talks about the likely motive behind Mark Cuban joining the Randy Couture vs Zuffa suit:

A Couture-Emelianenko match would likely have more business potential on pay-per-view than any MMA fight not promoted by the UFC. Not only would it possibly put another promotion on the map as a genuine, significant rival to UFC, something many groups have tried to be but none have really succeeded at, but it would answer probably the most important question regarding the future of the sport:

Is MMA popular, or just the UFC?

UFC has run numerous pay-per-view cards that have drawn from 600,000-1.05 million buys. No non-UFC promotion has ever done more than 75,000 buys.

Emelianenko, in particular, has been a pay-per-view flop in North America as a headliner for Pride and Bodog Fight. The Russian fighter, who was long considered the world's pound-for-pound best, did an anemic 13,000 buys for his lone 2007 match, against Matt Lindland.

Couture topped 500,000 buys on both of his 2007 UFC matches. A match with Emelianenko will likely show the upper limits of what the best fight possible, without UFC backing, could draw on pay-per-view.

Caleb from MMA Predictions seems to have poured some cold water on that with his Google Trends analysis of Fedor Emelianenko's relative popularity vs UFC icons Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, and Randy himself. But my spider sense went off when I read his analysis. I know it took me more than a year of effort to learn to spell Emelianenko. I bet most American fans don't search for "Fedor Emelianenko", they search for "Fedor". This trends chart confirms my gut instinct. Note the close correlation between spikes in searches for "Fedor Emelianenko" and "Fedor". Sure there are some spikes for Fedor that aren't matched by "Fedor Emelianenko" but clearly the majority of searches in the US for "Fedor" have to do with the "Last Emperor" and not some other Russian.


And now that we've corrected for that oversite, look at how well Fedor compares with Randy in terms of popularity on Google.

That's why Mark Cuban is willing to spend some money in legal fees to get Randy vs Fedor booked. With the kind of media push that Cuban can give it. It'll sell some PPVs or some subscriptions to HDNet. This makes Brock Lesnar all the more critical to Zuffa's future plans.