by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
While billion-dollar companies across the United States have been laying off employees and making other budget concessions during a severe economic climate, the Ultimate Fighting Championship continues to resist the downturn.

Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer on Tuesday released the final gross ticket revenue and attendance numbers for the UFC 94 mega-fight between Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn.

The official numbers recorded with the sanctioning body – a $4,290,020 gate and attendance of 14,885 – give the UFC a strong start to 2009. The gross ticket revenue was enough to place fifth for events the promotion has held in Las Vegas. Paid tickets sales of 13,622 – there were 1,263 comp tickets given away – is tops for the UFC in the city, besting both B.J. Penn vs. Sean Sherk and Quinton Rampage Jackson vs. Chuck Liddell.

Perhaps even more significant than the record attendance and high gross ticket revenue will be the final numbers on the UFC 94 pay-per-view purchases. Although it usually takes several months for the final numbers on pay-per-view purchases to be tallied – and the UFC doesn’t readily make their numbers publicly available – UFC President Dana White was recently reported by the Las Vegas Sun as saying that early indications are UFC 94 should settle somewhere near 1.3 million buys.

A buy rate of 1.3 million would be the peak in the history of the promotion. The Las Vegas Sun put Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 2 at 1.05 million buys. The Wrestling Observer reported that Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar was likely to finish around 1 million buys and the promotion’s 2008 year-end UFC 92 triple bill was already at 1 million based on trending data.

UFC 93, emanating from Ireland, is somewhere around 300,000 buys. Its broadcast premier in the U.S. was during the daytime, however, due to the time difference. Considering the logistics and that UFC 93 was predominantly deemed a weak card in regards to star power, the Wrestling Observer indicated that the 300,000 buys was still a strong return.

At a suggested retail price of $44.95 for UFC pay-per-views – if UFC 94 does indeed attain the 1.3 million buy threshold – that would be more than $58 million in gross sales.

Not all of that money goes directly into the UFC coffers, of course, but it does indicate one thing, the UFC has a resilient model to fight through some harsh economic times.

And, according to White, the UFC hasn’t even gotten off the ground yet. “The crazy thing about this sport is, we haven’t even scratched the surface on how big this thing is going to be. It’s going to be the biggest sport in the world.”

(NOTE: This article has been corrected to reflect that Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 2 totaled 1.05 million buys, not Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz 1, and that information should be credited to the Las Vegas Sun, not the Review Journal.)