by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
"Ticket sales have been great. Listen, right now, I
don’t care how big you are or you small you are, everybody’s feeling this
economic crunch. Major corporations that have been around before we were alive
are hurting right now and in fear of going out of business. Our business is in
a really good place right now. We did great on ticket sales, I’m predicting
right now, even with this economic crunch, the biggest pay-per-view in UFC
Such was the opening salvo of the president of one of the
fastest growing sports entities in the world, Dana White, the
head of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
At first glance, saying "ticket sales have been
great" in promoter speak usually means as much as "we’re hoping for a
big walk-up crowd." In other words, not what was expected of a fight like
the return of UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture defending his belt against
former WWE superstar Brock Lesnar.
But if you dig a little deeper into White’s follow-up
comments, you realize that Couture vs. Lesnar could still be the mega-fight
that the UFC hopes for, sold out or not.
"The reality is, you don’t go home and watch the UFC by
yourself. You get eight or nine buddies over, you get the pizza, you get the
beer, you all pitch in. It’s a pretty cheap night out," relayed White,
before adding, "We’re projecting 1.2 million (pay-per-view buys). I hope
I’m wrong and it’s more.
"We’ve got mad scientists sitting in a room calculating
these things… There’s a formula to it and a secret and we finally figured it
out… Maybe we’ll go a little over, maybe we’re a little under, but I
guarantee you, we’ll be right in that range."
The UFC is definitely a pay-per-view driven brand and if the
final tally is anything near White’s predication, coming up a few tickets short
of a sellout will make little difference to the bottom line.
In fact, 1.2 million buys at $44.95 each equates to roughly
$54 million, which easily dwarfs live gate revenues, which frequently fall into
the $3 to 5 million range.
And Couture vs. Lesnar is only the first in a succession of
"mega-fights" that the UFC president has on tap.
"Chuck (Liddell) is the biggest pay-per-view star in
MMA. (Couture vs. Lesnar) could outdo the Chuck Liddell numbers. GSP is
becoming a huge star in his own. I think the guy that walks out of that B.J.
Penn-GSP fight with their hand raised becomes a (expletive) superstar," said White,
referring to the Super Bowl weekend welterweight championship between current
champ Georges St. Pierre and lightweight champ B.J. Penn.
So, despite the U.S. economy tanking and many MMA companies
(most notably ProElite/EliteXC) suffering right along with the country’s
struggles, the UFC, if White’s estimates are correct, is far from bottoming
out. In fact, if White’s estimates are correct, the promotion may be in for
it’s largest payday to date.