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Preliminary Estimates Have UFC 117 Doing Near 1 Million Buys, Chael Sonnen Puts Anderson Silva Over the Top

Chael Sonnen may be a life long second place finisher, but he's first in his ability to sell pay per views.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Chael Sonnen may be a life long second place finisher, but he's first in his ability to sell pay per views. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Bryan Alvarez reports at the Wrestling Observer (subscription required):

Sonnen, as recapped in last week's newsletter, did the best one-man build for a PPV in years, perhaps ever. We don't have a buyrate and won't have a really good indication on how the show did until at least next week. I do know that using the method I usually use on Monday mornings, which is usually pretty accurate in terms of a predictor (I came up with 1.5 million for UFC 100 and the real number was 1.6 million, and 1.25 million for UFC 116 and the real number ended up being about 1.1 million, so it's sometimes up and sometimes down but usually close) the show is trending just slightly under the Quinton Jackson vs. Rashad Evans show, which did about 1 million buys. Dana White on Saturday night said his early trending info had him ecstatic and was pointing to the biggest Anderson Silva fight of all time. Keep in mind the previous biggest Anderson fight was versus Forrest Griffin, which did about 900,000. The feeling from the UFC side Monday was that it's likely going to finish at around a million buys or maybe just underneath that. Two months ago, Sonnen vs. Silva would have been lucky to do 300,000 to 350,000 buys. By the time the last week of hype rolled around I upgraded my prediction to 550,000. Others were predicting much higher. My feeling was that anyone who saw the Sonnen stuff was going to be talked into buying the show, and anyone who didn't wasn't going to care. The Countdown debut didn't do a great number, but it replayed a million times and I know that a lot of friends of mine who would not have bought this show two weeks ago changed their tune on Friday and Saturday when they got a chance to see it. Chael realistically deserves an extra dollar for every buy above around 550,000 that this show does (I'll grant 200,000 buys to a post-Lesnar bump which I'll talk about in a bit), because anything above that can be attributed almost completely to his promos.

Looks like those of us who said that Chael Sonnen's brilliant use of pro-wrestling promotional tactics would work to get the UFC's least popular champ over with the PPV buying public were spot on.  

We'll do some hand-wringing about what that means for the sport later today.

One factor that has not been much discussed is the hang-over effect of Brock Lesnar. Last year UFC 101 did surprisingly strong numbers coming in the wake of Lesnar vs Frank Mir 2's record setting PPV performance. I would be very curious to learn if UFC 117 followed the "map" of PPV buys that Lesnar pulled for UFC 116. Dave Meltzer said that followed an atypical pattern for UFC buys and was much stronger in WWE markets than in some traditional UFC mainstays. 

I predict that other UFC fighters will attempt to ape Sonnen's approach in the future. If you don't like trash talk before fights, cover your ears. And if you think Sonnen was bad, James Toney makes him look like an amateur.

The fact that the UFC is able to follow up immediately with a very strong card at UFC 118 is a very exciting prospect for the MMA UFC business. The B.J. Penn vs Frankie Edgar lightweight title fight rematch should intrigue the hard core fans and James Toney vs Randy Couture (or "Boxing vs UFC")has a ton of intrigue for casual fans and non-MMA fans.