by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
MMAWeekly has obtained the live gate information for recent MMA events held by Pride, the UFC, and Strikeforce.
When most organizations run an MMA event, there are two sets of attendance numbers. There are the attendance numbers that the promotion claims publicly during or after the event, and then there are the actual, legitimate attendance numbers.
This article will help you separate fact from fiction by providing you with all of the legitimate numbers, which have been verified by the California State Athletic Commission and Nevada State Athletic Commission.
For the Pride: Real Deal event that took place on October 21st at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada and was headlined by Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mark Coleman, the claim was made after the event that the number of paid tickets was 10,527.
In fact, the paid attendance for the event was 8,079. There were also 4,042 fans in attendance who had been given free comp tickets, so the total attendance in the building was 12,121. Approximately 33 percent of those in attendance got in for free, which is a higher percentage than any UFC event so far this year.
The Thomas & Mack Center can hold approximately 18,000 fans for certain events. While Pride’s elaborate set-up did block off several thousand seats, the venue could have still held up to 14,000 fans with Pride’s set-up.
With fairly high ticket prices, the live gate receipts for Pride: The Real Deal totaled $2,056,044. While that is a higher amount than both UFC 63 and UFC 64, it still falls short of seven UFC events, specifically UFC 52 (Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture II), UFC 54 (Liddell vs. Jeremy Horn), UFC 57 (Liddell vs. Couture III), UFC 59 (Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski II, plus Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin), UFC 60 (Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie), UFC 61 (Sylvia vs. Arlovski II, plus Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock II), and UFC 62 (Liddell vs. Renato “Babalu” Sobral).
In Japan, Pride regularly sells out the Saitama Super Arena, which holds approximately 35,000 fans, despite the company’s claims of selling 45,000+ tickets. If Pride’s pre-event claims that the Pride USA event would have a $30 million budget are even close to accurate, then the company lost a massive amount of money on this event. It may be a necessary first step to gain a foothold in the US marketplace, but it’s still a massive financial loss.
Given the fact that the attendance for Pride’s second event in America is likely to be lower than the attendance for the first event (a company only gets the “first time ever” attendance boost one time in any given market), it is puzzling that Pride is planning to run its second American event at the Thomas & Mack Center instead of a comparatively smaller venue like the Mandalay Bay Events Center or even the MGM Grand.
During the UFC 63 pay-per-view event, which took place on September 23rd at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California and was headlined by Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn, the claim was made on multiple occasions that the event was “sold out” and that there were “over 18,000 fans in attendance.”
In fact, the paid attendance for UFC 63 was 9,343 and the number of free comp tickets was 3,261, so the total number of people in attendance was 12,604.
Approximately 26 percent of those in attendance got in for free, which is the second-highest percentage for any UFC event this year. The highest percentage so far this year was UFC 60, at which 30 percent of the fans in attendance got in for free, but that’s still slightly lower than the Pride event’s mark of 33 percent.
The live gate receipts for UFC 63 totaled $1,582,370. While that is the tenth-largest total in UFC history, it’s also the lowest so far this year for any UFC pay-per-view event in 2006.
After the UFC 64 event concluded on October 14th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada (headlined by Rich Franklin vs. Anderson Silva), the media was told by the UFC that the paid attendance for the event was 10,863.
In fact, the paid attendance was 8,913. There were also 1,260 fans in attendance who had been given free comp tickets, so the total number of people in attendance was 10,173.
Only 12 percent of those in attendance at UFC 64 got in for free, which is the third-lowest percentage for a UFC PPV event so far this year (only UFC 57 and UFC 61 had lower comp percentages).
As for the live gate receipts, the UFC claimed after the event that the gross ticket sales for the event totaled $2,314,000, which would have been the fifth-largest live gate total for any UFC PPV event thus far in 2006.
In fact, the live gate receipts for UFC 64 totaled $1,790,490, which is the third-lowest live gate total for any UFC PPV event thus far in 2006.
Through October, the UFC’s live gate receipts for 2006 have totaled $20,915,287. Pay-per-view revenue is another matter altogether, and one that we have covered in-depth on MMAWeekly in recent months.
As previously reported, the Strikeforce promotion set the all-time North American MMA attendance record in March of this year when an event headlined by Frank Shamrock vs. Cesar Gracie drew over 17,000 paid fans in San Jose, California. That mark has not yet been approached by any other promotion in North America, including the UFC.
However, unlike the UFC, Strikeforce has not been able to maintain its momentum, as evidenced by the attendance figures for the company’s most recent event. That event was held on October 7th at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California, and it was headlined by Paul Buentello vs. Tank Abbott.
The paid attendance for the October 7th Strikeforce event was just 3,755. Combined with the 682 fans in attendance who had been given free comp tickets, the total attendance was just 4,437. The live gate receipts for the event totaled $307,820.