by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
Last weekend’s UFC 66 event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada generated $5,397,300 in gross ticket sales, which is more than any other event in UFC history.
Prior to UFC 66, there had been three events in UFC history that drew more than $3 million in gross ticket sales: UFC 57 (headlined by Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture), UFC 61 (Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock; and Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski), and UFC 62 (Liddell vs. Renato “Babalu” Sobral).
The live gate figure of $5,397,300 that was announced by Zuffa after UFC 66 is indeed the legitimate live gate figure. However, Zuffa’s claim that the building was sold out with 14,607 fans in attendance is not accurate.
The actual number of fans in attendance, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, was 13,761. Of the 13,761 fans in attendance, 12,191 of those fans paid for their tickets, while the remaining 1,570 people in attendance had free “comp” tickets.
The UFC’s all-time record for highest paid attendance is still held by UFC 59, for which 13,060 tickets were sold. In addition, the UFC record for the highest total attendance still belongs to UFC 60, which had a total of 14,765 fans in attendance (although 4,418 of those fans had free “comp” tickets).
Nonetheless, the amount of the live gate is far more important from a business standpoint than the number of fans in attendance, and UFC 66 simply blows away every other UFC event in history when it comes to gross ticket sales. The event that previously held the all-time record was UFC 57 (with gross ticket sales of $3,382,400), and UFC 66 surpassed that mark by more than $2 million.
Just over a month prior to UFC 66, a fight between Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre headlined UFC 65 in Sacramento, California. The event drew a live gate of $2,138,020, making it the ninth highest-grossing UFC event in history (including UFC 66).
Both events took place in California and both events featured a Matt Hughes fight in the main event, but UFC 65 (with Hughes vs. St. Pierre) drew approximately $550,000 more in gross ticket sales than UFC 63 (with Hughes vs. BJ Penn).
However, the public claims that 15,350 fans were in attendance at UFC 65 are false. The legitimate total attendance was 14,666, with 12,362 of those fans paying for their tickets and the other 2,304 fans receiving free “comp” tickets.
UFC Business Year-in-Review
Heading into 2006, the UFC had drawn live gates of $2 million or more on just two occasions in its history (UFC 52 with Liddell vs. Couture, and UFC 54 with Liddell vs. Jeremy Horn).
In the year 2006 alone, the UFC surpassed the $2 million mark in ticket sales with seven different events, three of which also surpassed the $3 million mark, and one of which also surpassed the $5 million mark.
Chuck Liddell has been in the main event in five of the nine events in UFC history that have drawn live gates of $2 million or more. The only two fighters who come close to Liddell’s record are Tito Ortiz and Matt Hughes, each of whom have been in the main event in three of the UFC’s nine events that have had ticket sales of more than $2 million.
In addition, Chuck Liddell has been in the main event in three of the four events in UFC history that have drawn live gates of $3 million or more, and he fought three different fighters in those three events (Randy Couture, Renato Sobral, and Tito Ortiz). Ortiz has been in two of the top four events, with Liddell and Ken Shamrock as his opponents.
The UFC held a total of ten pay-per-view events in 2006, and without taking pay-per-view revenue into account, those ten events generated $27,532,225 in ticket sales. The revenue in ticket sales, while impressive, is dwarfed by the skyrocketing PPV revenue.
Using the most conservative possible estimates for the UFC PPV events that took place in late 2006, the gross PPV revenue that was generated by the UFC’s ten PPV events in 2006 surpassed $200 million. The total may actually be well over $200 million, depending on how well UFC 64, UFC 65, and UFC 66 performed at the PPV box office.
Using Zuffa’s own public predictions of 1.2 million buys for UFC 66, that would mean that UFC 66 alone generated approximately $47.94 million in pay-per-view revenue.