UFC 249, which was headlined by Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson, did extremely well, according to a report by the Sports Business Journal. Their early estimates have the MMA pay-per-view drawing over 700,000 buys.
Early numbers are showing that Saturday’s UFC 249 was a pay-per-view success for ESPN+. Sources told SBJ’s John Ourand that ESPN’s streaming service logged north of 700,000 buys, which is a really good number for any card that does not feature Conor McGregor.
After moving to ESPN+ and signing a deal with the sports giant, it’s been much harder for people to get accurate and independent pay-per-view estimates compared to the UFC’s old model. SBJ also calls it “early numbers,” but if the actual figure is anywhere close to that, it would be a massive success for an event that has two headliners that haven’t been established pay-per-view draws.
To put things into perspective, Jon Jones, who is probably the biggest draw next to Conor McGregor, reportedly drew around 520-650K buys on the final non ESPN+ PPV. Buyrates since they moved to the digital platform and its paywall have also been naturally lower — although the UFC gets a far better guaranteed pay now — with the first ESPN+ PPV reportedly not even reaching 100K buys.
Gaethje and Ferguson have been fun, action fighters that avid fans enjoy watching, but the former hasn’t headlined a UFC PPV prior, while the latter drew just around 200K on his only main event. It was a deep card and the only sport running during the pandemic, but if that number is accurate, it would have still really blown past a lot of people’s expectations.
With the ESPN deal, the UFC reportedly would’ve gotten over $20 million regardless of how bad the buyrate would be, but some quick napkin math pegs these high numbers to make the promotion around double of that.
Dana White also alluded to the numbers exceeding expectations, saying ESPN shouldn’t have made him cancel his original PPV plans for April.
“It did very well,” White said during the post-fight press conference. “(ESPN is) very happy. They should’ve listened to me three weeks ago.”