Whatever you think of the UFC’s future under the WME-IMG banner, 2016 looks like it was a banner year for the promotion. A year that opened on a less than thrilling 300k buys for its Lawler vs. Condit PPV quickly saw a string of major PPV successes and closed on a definite high note.
According to MMAFighting, that note strikes the tune of 1.1 million PPV buys for UFC 207: Nunes vs. Rousey. While that’s a hair under McGregor vs. Aldo at the end of the previous year, it’s right in line with Ronda Rousey’s previous bout against Holly Holm. For that bout Rousey still had the strap around her waist, was still running the full gamut of media interviews, and was still undefeated.
A year later, with no belt and a block on all but the most notable media obligations, it appears Rousey still brings fans out of the woodwork. But, the notability of that success isn’t hers alone. With that final PPV event, the UFC recorded it’s 5th million-plus buys PPV in 2016.
UFC 196: McGregor vs. Diaz - 1,317,000 buys
UFC 200: Tate vs. Nunes - 1,009,000 buys
UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2 - 1,500,000 buys
UFC 205: Alvarez vs. McGregor - 1,300,000 buys
UFC 207: Nunes vs. Rousey - 1,100,000 buys
As Dave Meltzer reports, that’s not just the most million buy events in a single year in UFC history, but it’s the most in PPV sporting history as well. Boxing held 3 million-plus buy events in 1996 and again in 2011, while the UFC had three in 2010. For a company with high earning goals to meet, that’s the best possible way to close out their first year as owners.
Of course, there are solid reasons to question whether those results will be replicable. The UFC will start the year with Conor McGregor taking some time off, Jon Jones suspended, and Ronda Rousey coming off her second straight loss and with her future in the sport possibly at an end. That’s not to mention Brock Lesnar’s suspension following his UFC 200 comeback, as well as the promotions failed negotiations for GSP’s return.
2016 was a big year for the UFC, but it remains to be seen if it was a sign of success to come, or just a matter of good luck and circumstances before trending back down to previous norms.