With the exception of UFC 107 the UFC has really been struggling in pay-per-view sales in recent months, at least to their high standards. That was large in part due to the great injury plague of ’09 though, so there really wasn’t any reason to worry assuming the company would rebound at UFC 111 with the return of one of its biggest stars, Georges St. Pierre, in a title fight. Good news, it looks like they have (from Dave Meltzer).
Early cable estimates, and granted, anything this early in the week can be way off, indicate about 850,000 buys for UFC 111 on 3/27, putting it in the top six for UFC of all-time. The number had to boost the spirits of the company coming off four straight shows that did disappointing numbers. Dana White didn’t give a number, but in an exchange of messages before we got any figures, he indicated being thrilled with the early estimates he had gotten and that it looked to be well above my prediction (700,000) going in. If this number holds up, it would be the largest since UFC 101 on 8/8.
The number speaks volumes for St. Pierre as a drawing card, where he has to be now be considered No. 2 in the promotion.
I’m sure the Primetime series, two title fights and Frank Mir didn’t hurt either, but there’s no question Georges St. Pierre sells a ton of pay-per-views. He took a ton of heat for not finishing Dan Hardy or inflicting any serious damage at UFC 111, so it remains to be seen how that will affect his drawing power moving forward, but I suspect disgruntled fans will at least give him another chance. He’s one finish or exciting performance away from erasing any memory of a lackluster fight.
Now that the UFC has rebounded on pay-per-view the question is, can the UFC build off this momentum at UFC 112? With two title fights and a proven draw in BJ Penn the answer should be a easy yes, but it’s not. Since the card is being held in Abu Dhabi it airs live here in North America at 1PM ET/10AM PT with a replay in the normal 10PM ET/7PM PT time slot. Historically, the overseas events have performed poorly on pay-per-view because of the unusual time slots/tape delays and relatively weak cards. This card isn’t weak, but how many on the West Coast will want to shell out $50 to watch a UFC event at 10AM? How many will pay to watch a show that isn’t live? If this was a US show, I’d say it easily breaks 600,000, but since it’s not I have no idea what to expect. I’m sure the UFC isn’t overly concerned considering this card is more about impressing their new partners and building towards the future than their net profit, but it will be interesting to see what it comes in at nonetheless.
Image via UFC.com