For the most part, we all have a pretty good idea about who the UFC’s top draws are. But it’s also nice to see the data which is exactly what the fine folks at MMA Payout compiled.
Here’s the list of the UFC’s top draws from 2008-2009 with the amount of gross revenue they helped generate.
2008 – 2009 Fighter Total Events Brock Lesnar $112,782,143 4 BJ Penn $105,155,400 5 Frank Mir $98,631,998 4 Georges St-Pierre $92,870,447 4 Forrest Griffin $81,988,194 4 Rashad Evans $74,725,553 3 Anderson Silva $60,342,500 4 Rich Franklin $53,780,000 5
The order changes slightly when you average out their gross revenues per event.
2008 – 2009 Fighter Total Brock Lesnar $28,195,536 Rashad Evans $24,908,518 Frank Mir $24,658,000 Georges St-Pierre $23,217,612 BJ Penn $21,031,080 Forrest Griffin $20,497,049 Anderson Silva $15,085,625 Rich Franklin $10,756,000
Obviously, there are numerous factors at play so these numbers and rankings shouldn’t be taken as gospel per se. Match-ups along with what other names compete on the card also influences how much revenue any given event will generate. For instance, Anderson Silva has never drawn all that well when he’s the only high-profile fighter on the card, but the buys for UFC 101 were huge when he fought (former?) fan-favorite Forrest Griffin under a BJ Penn title fight.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Brock Lesnar is the top dog, but I do find it interesting that Frank Mir is so high on the list. Before his motorcycle accident, Mir was on fire, but that all quickly vanished. In 2006-2007, as he tried to make his comeback Mir was just another heavyweight in a weak heavyweight division. But that all changed in 2008 when he beat the sport’s “next big thing.” Without Lesnar, Mir probably wouldn’t have emerged one of the UFC’s top stars in this decade’s final years, at least not to the same extent. His increasingly controversial attitude and continued development into a well-rounded mixed martial artist should keep him near the top of the list for years to come.
Noticeably absent from the list are the UFC’s top stars from the middle of the decade — Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Matt Hughes. With maybe the exception of Randy Couture who is the only one with a semi-realistic chance of making another title run, each of these fighters are in the twilight of their careers. Without the perfect opponents, they’ll all have a difficult time matching their drawing power from the past.
Payout also listed a few fighters they believe have the potential to emerge as big stars in the next decade including Shane Carwin, Jon Jones and Kenny Florian. I definitely agree, but I think they’ll all need to capture UFC gold at least once before they reach the next level.
I also think Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua are worth mentioning here. Machida made a ton of progress in 2009 with his knockout wins over Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans. Once he started finishing fights, he really started to capture people’s attention. Then his UFC 104 fight with Shogun happened. Shogun made him look mortal and it’s hard to say how that might have affected his development, especially when the majority of people thought he deserved to lose. That fight itself did respectable numbers, so it will be very interesting to see what kind of business the rematch does and how the outcome might affect their progress moving forward.