by Ivan Trembow
The UFC drew the second-highest live gate in the history of MMA in the United States with UFC 54, which took place on Saturday, August 20th. The event, which was headlined by Chuck Liddell vs. Jeremy Horn, drew a live gate of $2,336,550. That amount is second only to UFC 52, which was headlined by Liddell vs. Randy Couture and drew a live gate of $2,575,450. No other MMA event in the United States has ever come close to the $2 million figure, with the previous record belonging to UFC 40 and its $1.5 million live gate.
However, Zuffa’s claims of UFC 54 having over 13,500 fans in attendance are exaggerated, and those claims were repeated by the UFC in an interview with the Las Vegas Business Press. In fact, UFC 54 had a paid attendance of 11,634 fans, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The number of free “comp” tickets given out by PR people was 1,171. Even if you combine the paid tickets with the comp tickets to determine that the total attendance in the building was 12,805, that’s still less than 13,500. The company has just legitimately drawn the second-highest live gate in UFC history, which makes the “13,500” claim all the more puzzling and unnecessary.
When comparing UFC 54 with UFC 52, the amount of advertising that promoted the pay-per-view on Spike TV and the marquee value of the main event were far higher for UFC 54 than they were for UFC 52. This makes it all the more remarkable that the UFC was able to sell so many tickets and draw such a huge live gate for UFC 54.
The ticket prices for UFC 54 were only slightly down from UFC 52, as the average ticket price went from $204 to $201. Both of these events blow away the “UFC Ultimate Fight Night” event that took place on August 6th, which had an average ticket price of $140 and still only had 929 paid tickets.
Overall, 91 percent of the fans who were in the building had to pay for their tickets at UFC 54, which compares favorably to 86 percent for UFC 52, and a paltry 38 percent for Ultimate Fight Night.
Given that UFC 54 had a live gate of $2,336,550 and a total fighter payroll of $635,000, the fighters as a whole were paid approximately 27% of the live gate. For comparison, UFC 52 had a live gate of $2,575,450 and a total fighter payroll of $519,500, meaning that the fighters as a whole were paid approximately 20% of the live gate at UFC 52.
That’s not always the case, as the total fighter payroll actually exceeded the live gate at the Ultimate Fight Night event on August 6th. That event had a live gate of $130,410 and a total fighter payroll of $139,000, meaning that the fighters were actually paid 107 percent of the live gate.
However, the UFC has a lot more expenses than just the fighter payroll, and the company also has a lot more revenue than just ticket sales. For pay-per-view events, the other big source of income is obviously pay-per-view revenue. For live Spike TV events like Ultimate Fight Night, other sources of income for the UFC include advertising revenue and rights fees that Spike TV pays the UFC.