The numbers are in, and they aren’t pretty. According to Dave Meltzer of MMAFighting.com, UFC 226 did less than 400,000 pay-per-view buys. That’s a huge disappointment for the UFC considering it was one of the most stacked shows of the year, featuring a true superfight at the top of the bill between former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and now-heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier. It’s true that the card lost its co-main event between UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and Brian Ortega, but even still, the hope was that the card would do much better than that on PPV. No one was expecting a million buys, but half a million buys seemed like a good baseline, and the card didn’t even reach that mark. UFC president Dana White is no doubt feeling disappointed, as he likely was hoping for the card to do at least double that number of buys.
The low buyrate shows that Miocic was not able to make his mark as a true PPV draw despite being arguably the greatest heavyweight in MMA history. Miocic’s first main event bout on PPV came against Fabricio Werdum at UFC 198 and that card did 217,000 buys. His second main event came Alistair Overeem at UFC 203 and that card did 450,000 buys, but you have to remember CM Punk made his MMA debut on that card and that surely helped the buyrate for that event. Miocic’s third UFC main event came against Junior dos Santos at UFC 211 and that card did 300,000. His fourth main event against Francis Ngannou at UFC 220 did 350,000 buys. And now this fight against DC did less than 400,000.
What the numbers show is that Miocic had a limited appeal to fight fans as a champion and pay-per-view draw. Despite being an amazing fighter in the cage, he just was never able to become a true box office superstar. It’s just further proof that sometimes it’s not just what happens in the cage that gets fans interested, and Miocic just never caught on as a PPV draw. The same can be said of Cormier, who has not proven he can draw to superstar-level numbers except for when he’s fighting against Jon Jones.
And this is precisely why the UFC is going to give Brock Lesnar the next heavyweight title shot against Cormier despite the fact he has not officially won a fight since a submission win over Shane Carwin at UFC 116 back in 2010. Lesnar’s one of the few fighters in MMA that can draw seven-figure buyrates on the regular, and with the UFC making the move to ESPN in early 2019, the promotion surely wants to make a big splash on PPV. Instead of giving a guy who deserves a title fight more based on merit like Curtis Blaydes or Alexander Volkov, it was a no-brainer for the promotion to give Lesnar a title shot, particularly after seeing how disappointing UFC 226 did on PPV compared to what the UFC hoped. It’s understandable to disagree with the UFC’s decision to skip over the other top contenders for Lesnar, but you have to understand that the UFC treats MMA like a business first and a sport second, and that’s why it makes sense.
If Cormier fought Blaydes or Volkov next, honestly, even with all the hype behind DC right now as a double champion I don’t see either of those bouts breaking the 400,000 mark that Cormier just did with Miocic. Against Brock Lesnar, though, it’s a fight that has a really good chance to break that elusive one-million buy marker. The UFC is in the market for big-money fights, even if it comes at the expense of more deserving fighters missing out on their title shots. No, Brock Lesnar does not deserve his title shot based on merit. But he deserves it because he’s a huge name and can sell out arenas and PPVs. And with Cormier only having a couple fights left before he retires, I doubt he minds cashing in as well. It’s a big win for the UFC that Brock Lesnar is coming back and it was a no-brainer to give him a title shot, even though guys like Blaydes and Volkov are probably kicking themselves and wondering why this sport can be so cruel and unfair at times.
Do you think Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Cormier is the right move?