Perhaps there are a few sighs of relief at UFC headquarters.
UFC 217 was positioned and marketed as a marquee event, and decked it out with a little bit of everything. The card was topped with three title fights, had exciting young prospects and plenty of action fights. Seeing as this was pushed to be one of the biggest (if not the biggest) events of the year, and management had to have been banking on a major number for the event to do well.
The number would be the highest of the year, and best since the Amanda Nunes vs. Ronda Rousey fight on Dec. 30, 2016.
Meltzer rightfully notes that there were some doubts regarding the success of the event due to St-Pierre’s lengthy hiatus, as well as the newer audience not being present for his previous run. The perceived lack of enthusiasm coupled with the former champion competing in a division he had never been in before led to some concern, but perhaps it was unfounded. All in all, not a bad number for a card that was stacked to the gills and was rumored to not be doing well with pre-sale numbers.
Meltzer also notes that the show had done surprisingly well in Canadian markets, not entirely surprising considering the main event featured one of the most revered Canadian athletes alive.
Google trends regarding interest in the show list 11 Canadian markets as the strongest. The highest-ranked major market in the U.S., San Jose, Calif., placed only 15th.
Perhaps fans weren’t apathetic at all regarding St-Pierre’s return, or perhaps the card was big enough and had enough of a promotional push in various markets (especially Canada) to push the numbers where they needed to be. It should be noted that this is only an estimate, and only one for total buys at that. This does not account for the price difference between residential and commercial differences, which can be quite significant.
Either way, all parties win here. Maybe the event did not surpass the elusive million-buy mark that some had anticipated or hoped for, but it’s the second-highest buyrate for any GSP-headlined PPV, and this is a healthy number in a time the UFC needs it most.