Earlier in the week, Dana White claimed that 2017 “will be the biggest year” in UFC history. This was a bit of a head-scratcher for many, because if you look at estimates of the UFC’s pay-per-view sales, the numbers from 2017, are lower compared to both 2016 and 2015.
The UFC President still doubled down on these statements, saying that people just don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.
“Whose indications are that? People who don’t know what the f—k they’re talking about,” White said following UFC 217, which he claims did well over a million pay-per-view buys. “You don’t know what’s going on in our business. How do you speculate that we’re having a down year?”
“This is a best year by a long shot in the company’s history. Boom!” White proclaimed. “Ronda didn’t fight. Conor really didn’t fight in MMA. Jon Jones fought once. Anderson Silva, Chuck Liddell, the list goes on and on. The business is kicking ass. Best year ever, by a long shot.”
White did explain that 2017 being the company’s best year was not just about pay-per-view buys. He also considers the revenue they made from other sources, including the massive Mayweather vs McGregor bout.
“It’s counting all the money that we made in the last 12 months,” he said.
“You can’t take (Mayweather vs McGregor) out. It did happen. If it didn’t happen, Conor would’ve fought twice this year,” he said. “You can’t take it out. Who cares if it’s a boxing match? It’s revenue that the company made, that we spent 4 months of our resources promoting.”
There’s a few things to unpack and explain with these statements:
- White tries to say that anyone who says they’re having a down year are outright wrong. He again tries to antagonize the media and said that UFC officials are the only ones who should be believed because no one knows about their business but them.
I guess you can say this is both true and also somewhat false.
- Outside and independent estimates of the UFC’s PPV sales are obviously not going to be down to the exact number, but they paint a pretty good picture on how these events are generally doing. UFC’s 2017 PPV sales for their own shows are indeed lower if you compare it to the same metrics from previous years, so it is fair to say in that specific area, they are having a down year.
- That being said, the UFC of course, doesn’t just rely on revenue from pay-per-views. As White sort of implied, they can have a relatively “down” year from PPV buys, but still have very impressive increases in revenue. This was the case in 2014, which had “poor” PPV sales, but reportedly had a huge increase in revenue and diversification in its revenue sources.
- As for what these sources are, even from back in 2012 the UFC reportedly only relied on pay-per-view buys to make up for around 30% of their revenue. They also have massive contractual deals (like FOX), sponsorships, along with merchandising, licensing, content distribution agreements, and others that make up a huge chunk of that.
- As White alluded to, the UFC got a lot of money from the massive Mayweather vs McGregor event, even if they conceivably had a smaller slice of the pie than they’re normally used to. The specifics of their deal weren’t made public, but think of it this way: They basically loaned McGregor for boat load of cash, while Mayweather Promotions and Showtime did the heavy lifting. It’s money without having to spend what they normally do for salaries and all the other expenses of putting on and promoting big UFC events on their own.
- UFC also has a lot of sponsorships, and they signed new lucrative deals this year, such as Modelo and BodyArmor to add to all that. These deals also opened them up for better sponsorship opportunities internationally, which was different from the globally exclusive deals they had signed with Budweiser before.
Basically, much like what I explained during the time Bob Arum slammed Dana White for being “desperate” and having a “failing business”, the company may have had lower UFC-only PPV sales in 2017, but they are still very profitable overall and they really have nothing to worry about.
Their PPV buyrate in the future should improve as well. St-Pierre by all accounts, is still a huge and reliable draw, and Conor McGregor is also returning with goals fighting a couple of times to try and top the 2018 Forbes list.