No one expected that UFC 161 which featured a three-round non-title bout between Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson would post a strong number for PPV buys. Nor were there high expectations for UFC 163, a Brazilian card featuring Featherweight champ Jose Aldo facing Chan Sung Jung, aka "the Korean Zombie."
Both cards were ravaged by injuries and suffered from the UFC's efforts to stack UFC Fight Night 26 for their Fox Sports 1 debut last weekend. But just how bad were the numbers? Dave Meltzer reports at MMA Fighting:
On Aug. 3, UFC 163 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, headlined by Jose Aldo's win over Chan Sung Jung, the Korean Zombie, is currently estimated at doing 170,000 to 190,000 buys based on several estimates from the cable and MMA industry. It looks to have beaten UFC 161, headlined by Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson, two significantly bigger names, but with no championship belt at stake, by about 35,000 buys.
It says that the featherweight title is worth something, and also gives an ominous message as to the current drawing power of Evans, who headlined a few of the biggest events in company history.
But fans are more and more willing to skip buying every show, especially when the pay-per-view doesn't have a can't-miss match. UFC 163 came a week after a major television show, and two weeks before another. The debut of UFC on Fox Sports 1 showed that the UFC fan base for the most part is not a casual viewer. Even though most would agree Saturday's debut on FS 1 was a stronger lineup than the July 27th show on FOX, the idea that a show on FOX would do a 1.5 rating and a show on an unfamiliar station that didn't even exist the day before would do a 1.4 is nothing short of staggering.
Clearly the UFC audience has learned to skip some PPVs. It will be interesting to see how UFC 164 fares, featuring Lightweight champ Ben Henderson rematching Anthony Pettis, the man who took the WEC title away from him. The Lightweight title has not been a PPV draw since B.J. Penn lost the title. Henderson's two PPVs as a headliner (UFC 144 and UFC 150) did 375,000 and 150,000 buys, with UFC 144 having a strong co-main event featuring Rampage Jackson.
Bendo's last two title defenses, 5 round decision wins over Gilbert Melendez and Nate Diaz, headlined UFC on Fox cards and drew more than 4 million viewers on broadcast television in the U.S. UFC 164 will be a big test of the UFC's current business model to see if Henderson's exposure on Fox have boosted him as a PPV draw.
UFC 164 takes place on August 31 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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