It has been a rough year for the UFC thus far in 2014; up until the end of June, not a single PPV show really performed viewership-wise — not since UFC 168 in December of the previous year. That event saw Anderson Silva suffer a horrific leg break in his rematch with Chris Weidman, and Ronda Rousey best Miesha Tate for the second time, this time by arm bar in the third round — the first and only time to date a Rousey fight has left the first.
With Silva out due to the leg injury, Georges St. Pierre in a sort of semi-retirement which may likely turn permanent, and with additional injures to Johny Hendricks, Anthony Pettis and Cain Velasquez, plus the likes of Nick Diaz and Nate Diaz simply sitting out at home, the UFC found itself hard pressed to convince viewers to hit the order button on their remotes in the first half of the year. It was a painful reminder that the stars, not the brand, are what sell fights.
Well, July was certainly an improvement, if numbers released earlier today are to be believed. Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer/MMA Fighting fame has suggested that the buyrate for UFC 175, which again featured Weidman and Rousey in the headlining and co-headlining slots, respectively, has topped 500,000 buys, a first for a UFC PPV this year. If the estimate holds true, it caps off what in reality was a great July for the promotion — UFC 175 was generally well-received, with Lyoto Machida proving a tough test for fledgling champion Weidman, who was in his first title fight against someone not named Silva, while Rousey continued to demonstrate absolute dominance in the octagon, dispatching challenger Alexis Davis by TKO in just 16 seconds.
Following that, successful Fight Night events including Te Huna vs. Marquardt in New Zealand, Cerrone vs. Miller back on U.S. soil, and the phenomenal performance of UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao (the most successful Fight Pass event to date) kept the promotion on something of a constant high, so the buyrate news, not entirely unexpected, is icing on the cake.
Of course, August started with a whimper due to the cancellation of UFC 176 — just the second UFC event in history to be outright cancelled, despite the UFC’s initial attempt to spin the event as being “postponed” -= but with the T.J. Dillashaw/Renan Barao rematch slated for UFC 177, and the highly anticipated Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier bout booked to go down at UFC 178, the next two events have the potential to preform at a high level as well, with expectations being that 178 could actually surpass the sales of 175, which Meltzer suggested weighed in at between 500,000 and 545,000 buys.
With a handful of successful events behind them in July and some anticipated fights on the horizon, plus the eventual return later this year of Pettis, Hendricks and Velasquez, it looks as if things are finally looking up for the UFC when it comes to the numbers.