Tito Ortiz & Forrest GriffinThe good news is UFC 104 which was headlined by two barely English speaking fighters — Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua — pulled in 450-500k pay-per-view buys according to The Wrestling Observer. The bad news is UFC 106 headlined by two proven draws — Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin — tanked, only selling an estimated 330-370k pay-per-view buys.Via MMA Payout:

The first week cable estimate on UFC 106 was 330,000, which is even lower than earliest projections we had. UFC 104 with Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio Shogun Rua came in at 450,000 in a cable estimate and 460,000 in a trending estimate. Keep in mind the general rule of thumb by nature of how numbers are reported in the U.S. is that the final number since most UFC buys are in the U.S. will wind up 10-15% above these original numbers, so it’s likely Machida-Rua ends up at 500,000, which isn’t bad, and UFC 106 winds up 360,000 to 375,000, which for that fight is a gigantic disappointment. Trending numbers right now are indicating about a 27% drop from 104.

Zak Woods sums up the contributing factors quite nicely.

It was probably a compilation of multiple factors that lead to UFC 106 being a “gigantic disappointment”. Obviously the Lesnar-Carwin main even being canceled is at the top of the list then there is the issue of their replacement’s purported popularity. Tito Ortiz was coming off an eighteen month layoff while Forrest Griffin was embarrassed at UFC 101, which could have affected their standing with casual fans. Not to mention the fact that November was a month loaded with MMA events including UFC 105, which was shown on Spike for free the week before. Finally there is the Las Vegas economy, which is still in the dumps.

When it comes right down to it UFC 106 just didn’t feel like a must-see event. Sure, you had Tito and Forrest, but in the grand scheme of things the fight really didn’t mean anything. Tito hasn’t won a significant fight in years. Maybe people are finally over him and maybe Forrest lost a lot of fans when he ran out of the arena after his embarrassing performance against Anderson Silva. I don’t know, but people clearly didn’t care enough to shell out $45/$55 to see it.

And things are going to get worse before they get better. Next weekend’s UFC 107 is the best card we’re going to get for awhile so enjoy it while it lasts. If UFC 106 only did mid-300k buys, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if UFC 108 does less than 300k. The card is that weak. UFC 109 isn’t that much better and it’s hard to imagine it would come close to hitting the 400k mark with a meaningless light heavyweight headliner between Randy Couture and Mark Coleman.

Things may look bad now, but it will turn around. All the major stars who are out of commission for one reason or another will be back next spring and into the summer. Plus, the UFC was just named no. 3 on Google’s 2009 rising sports searches. People are interested and awareness is spreading. There’s just not a lot to look forward to right now. In the big picture, this is just another bump in the road.