2017 has treated the UFC well, according to the promotion’s president, Dana White.
White said at the UFC 217 pre-fight press conference Thursday in New York City that 2017 is trending to be the company’s most successful year ever.
“This will be the biggest year in the company’s history,” White said when asked about the growth of the UFC since its first show at Madison Square Garden — UFC 205 — in November 2016. “We’re on track for the biggest year ever. So it’s been good.”
White’s claim is odd to say the least. The UFC has sold an estimated 2.6 million pay-per-views thus far in 2017, and there are only three pay-per-view events left until the new year. By this time last year, not including the blockbuster UFC 205: McGregor vs. Alvarez event, the UFC had sold over 6 million pay-per-views — less than half than January to October of 2017.
2017 has ultimately been considered by many a slow year for the UFC. 2015 and 2016 were great years for the premier MMA promotion, mostly thanks to Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey. But in 2017, there have been few major UFC cards that reached a mainstream/casual audience — the highest-selling card is thus far UFC 214: Jones vs. Cormier 2 at just over 850,000 buys. This weekend’s UFC 217 card, headlined by Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre, is expected to probably be No. 2 of the year. UFC 218: Holloway vs. Edgar is not expected to do great numbers, and the last card of the year does not yet have a headliner.
McGregor has not competed in MMA this year, and Rousey appears to be all but officially retired. The UFC has had a tough time selling pay-per-views without its two biggest stars, and that is evident by the promotion’s 2017 numbers.
Of course, McGregor’s only bout in 2017 has been a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather that may have broken the pay-per-view all-time record — it depends who you ask. Either way, the bout, which Mayweather won by TKO, was a major success.
It’s not clear where White is coming up with the idea that 2017 is the UFC’s biggest year to date. Perhaps he is just including Mayweather-McGregor, despite the fact it was, of course, not a UFC card. But the UFC did later become an official co-promoter. Without Mayweather-McGregor included, however, it’s not realistic to believe 2017 will be the UFC’s biggest year ever.
Better luck in 2018, UFC.