At this point, UFC 234 has to be looked at as a completely unexpected success for the WME-IMG MMA organization. A PPV that was thin on interest from the outset – outside from the main and co-main event – lost its biggest, most meaningful fight just hours away from showtime. Robert Whittaker’s sudden hernia diagnosis meant that Israel Adesanya’s torch-passing bout with Anderson Silva suddenly had the Melbourne stage all to itself.
It was a fight booked more with the idea of putting a little extra sales power behind one of the UFC’s lower-marketability champs than it was supposed to be a meaningful, elite contest. However, Silva and Adesanya put on a surprisingly competitive bout to return a reported buyrate of approximately 175,000.
It’s a number that would have been in the basement back in the 2006-2013 glory days. But in 2019? There have been 3 lower selling UFC shows in just the past 12 months.
As such, it only seems fair that Adesanya and Silva get to reap the rewards of this better-than-expected profit return. After all, even from the outset, they were the fight that was selling tickets. At least, that’s the way the ‘Last Stylebender’ sees it, as he explained in a recent interview with the MMA Hour (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“I sold this fight,” Adesanya explained, adding that Countdown episodes building up to the event featuring himself and Silva were much more heavily viewed than those featuring Whittaker and Gastelum. “I did my job. I hyped this fight up. And I don’t want to say ‘hype it up’ like it’s some bullshit way but I did my job. I showed up, I fought. And before that, the fight was already sold with just the magnitude of this fight and the story, the value behind this fight. So yeah, I sold this fight. I did my job, and I feel like I was already the main event anyway. He just happened to be champion fighting the number one contender. We were the fight people wanted to see the most.”
“I feel like definitely the UFC has every right not to give us those points, because it wasn’t in the contract,” Adesanya added. “But fair is fair, and it’s not always... We’ve always had a good working relationship and I want to keep it that way. So, eventually we will sit down with Dana and say, ‘Okay what can we do?’ Because that’s a lot of money being left on the table, and for the hard work that me and Anderson Silva put in and so yeah. I don’t want to leave that money on the table when I feel it belongs in my pocket.”
Of course, relying on the magnanimous nature of the UFC when it comes to negotiating for a bigger share of their profits may not have the highest return rate of success. But there’s no harm in asking, right?
In the meantime, Adesanya already has his next fight booked. With Whittaker’s aforementioned injury keeping him sidelined for an undetermined stretch of time, the UFC is pushing ahead with a new interim middleweight title fight. Adesanya will now take on the man who had been poised to fight the ‘Reaper,’ Kelvin Gastelum. That fight is expected to take place at UFC 236 on April 13th in Atlanta, GA — alongside an interim lightweight title fight between Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier. Maybe Adesanya will have some points on his contract for that one.