The UFC as an organization has always prided itself for being the only sports entity to be in business at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Company president Dana White, in particular, has always been about “finding solutions” instead of “hiding” from the disease like you were “hiding from cancer.”
Fast forward 21 months later. In 2021 alone, the UFC has put on sell-out pay-per-view shows in five different states. Looking back on the year that was, White credits his headstrong approach to the business amidst the global shutdown for the success he’s currently enjoying.
“Our fanbase has grown over 40% just this year. How about that?” White proudly told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto in a recent sitdown. “You take the fact that we went through the pandemic with… we’ve obviously been putting on great fights and the fights are incredible. The live event is incredible. There’s a lot of other things that go into what makes us successful.
“I knew there was a way to figure this out. Abu Dhabi was already testing. They had tests for COVID. Why did we not have tests for COVID, and how do we do it? How do we get them? How do we make this thing work? But the bigger issue at that time was finding a venue that would carry the event.
“When you look at it, a lot of these leagues and businesses and whatever it might be were all trying to reopen in 2021. We never shut down. We were already rolling through 2020 and then right into 2021. Once we did the first show and we started to roll, I never looked back.”
Looking ahead into 2022, White expects a much bigger year of “shattering” his company’s own records, especially with the constant evolution of technology.
“We’re gonna break the record in California. The biggest gate ever in the history of California was $3.2 million,” he said. “This next gate (UFC 270) is gonna be $5 million. We’re coming out of a global pandemic, and we’re breaking every record we’ve ever had.
“We’re not just breaking them. We’re shattering them. It’s almost double the biggest gate ever.
“I truly believe that as technology continues to grow, the world gets smaller, and these companies, whether it’s Netflix, Amazon, ESPN… Over the next several years, there’ll be three to five big players around the world where we can all watch the same thing at the same time. Meaning, the whole world can.
“We might do 8.6 million pay-per-view buys in one night. That’s what I’m looking at for the future.”
The UFC’s PPV event to close out 2021 was UFC 269, which took place early this month. PPV buys have yet to be released, but the reported live gate was at $8 million, which if we go by this list, would have it sit at the top six of all-time MMA gates in Nevada.