While 2020 has been horrible for a lot of companies, it has been great for the UFC. Dana White recently spoke about how the promotion has been exceeding expectations, breaking records, and doing huge numbers this year.
“The brand has never been bigger or stronger than it is right now,” White said before their ESPN card this week (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I mean if you look at the ratings and the amount of promotion. I don’t know if you guys felt it like we felt it, but you had to feel in your business. My personal social media was off the charts, the biggest numbers that I’ve ever pulled, ever.
“UFC’s social media numbers are off the charts. The traffic,” he stated. “The merchandise, we’ve already sold more merchandise this year than we did all of 2019. We already crushed that number from 2019. The list goes on and on.”
While he has previously used the pandemic and lack of gate as an excuse to not increase fighter pay, White has now admitted and boasted about how 2020 has been a massive success for the UFC even without those ticket sales.
“Obviously, in a lot of ways this has affected our business,” White said. “There’s no gate. That’s $110 million dollars – in that ball park – and some other things. But we’re still rolling.”
As we detailed earlier, live gate only accounted for “less than 12%” of the UFC’s revenue in 2019, and because they don’t rely as much on ticket and PPV sales as they did in the past, 2020 has been on track to be one of the biggest years in the UFC’s history.
Despite what was implied before, the UFC was never actually going to “lose” money in 2020. At worst, they were only going to have slightly less profit than expected, but White believes this year might even be a catalyst for long term growth.
Apart from having lucrative contractual revenues, the UFC has also benefitted from being one of the few sports running right now. Even their smaller shows that would’ve just been streamed online have all been broadcast on ESPN, and White says this has strengthened their brand immensely.
“You have to look at the value that’s being built in the brand,” White said. “The amount of people that you’re probably converting to be fans that probably never watched before and the list goes on and on.
“It’s impossible for it not to be good,” White said. “It’s all a good thing. There’s more people that are aware of this sport than ever before, and not just in the United States, but globally.”
Perhaps that added exposure helped, as PPV buys have also reportedly been great this year for the promotion. The UFC has also said to have secured a deal that has the Abu Dhabi government shouldering costs and paying the promotion good money to host those “Fight Island” events that have been great PR for the country.
All in all, it seems like a great year for the UFC. Maybe it’s time they start giving a bigger share of that to their athletes.