The UFC’s true PPV buy-rates have rarely been a matter of public knowledge. At times, Dana White has thrown out ballpark figures, and the ongoing UFC Lawsuit has thrown a few legit numbers out into the world, but for the most part, anyone looking to get an idea as to how many people watched any one UFC card have had to depend on estimates based off a whole range of pre, post, and mid-event traffic metrics.
And at least, according to those, UFC 246 should have been another huge success for the world’s largest MMA promotion—and Conor McGregor with it. ESPN’s Marc Raimondi reports that Dave Meltzer – of Wrestling Observer and MMA Fighting – has pegged McGregor’s first UFC bout in more than a year at somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 million buys.
On Wresting Observer Radio, @davemeltzerWON said metrics were indicating UFC 246 did the equivalent of what 2 million PPV buys would have been under the old, pre-ESPN+ system.— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) January 20, 2020
Or at least, it would be 2 million—if the UFC were still using the classic cable-based PPV distribution system of years past. Instead, the UFC announced in early 2019 that – for consumers in the North American market – their pay-per-view events would be broadcast exclusively through ESPN+. And any fight fans that wanted to watch, would have to have an ESPN+ subscription first.
Unfortunately, with the UFC staying tight lipped as ever about their buy-rates, that’s thrown a lot of the potential for estimation out the window. With PPV’s behind an internet paywall, even more normal metrics like TV prelim viewership may not provide the most accurate numbers.
McGregor vs. Cerrone almost certainly did bigger numbers than any other PPV the UFC has put on ESPN+ to date. But, just how much bigger? We may never know.