According to Sports Business Journal, the results for the biggest UFC Pay-Per-View events of 2020 are in. There are still at least 7 more UFC events still to come before the year is out, including UFC 255: Figueiredo vs. Perez on November 21st and UFC 256 on Saturday 12th December, so this list is by no means exhaustive. It does, however, paint a very clear picture of those events that were hits and those that were misses.
As much as we were all expecting it to, surprisingly, October’s Khabib vs. Gaethje card didn’t take the top spot, lingering in 5th place instead. Even with all the hype in the run-up to the event, including Dana White himself declaring that it was “trending off the charts”, UFC 254 only pulled in a total of 675k PPV buys.
All five of these fights, however, have made significant contributions to the continued development of MMA betting as one of the main sports in the sports wagering market, although none have managed to pull in a bet that tops the million-dollar wager that was placed on Amanda Nunes at UFC 250 earlier in the year.
5. UFC 254 – 675,000 pay-per-view buys
The UFC’s final trip this year to Abu Dhabi’s Fight Island, 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje featured a solid fight card topped off by the Lightweight unification bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.
The main event was a memorable one: Nurmagomedov submitted Gaethje just two rounds in, pushing his sparkling record to 29-0 and keeping the Lightweight belt firmly around his waist. He then dropped the bombshell of his retirement, dominating MMA headlines ever since.
As huge as the event was, however, it was still only the 5th most-popular PPV event on the promotion’s 2020 schedule.
3. UFC 249: Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje – 700,000 pay-per-view buys
The Florida event was originally intended to be a title fight between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov, but due to last-minute issues, contender Justin Gaethje was given a shot instead.
Bloody and brutal, UFC 249 ended up being one of the wildest events of the year, not least because of that betting upset. Souza vs Hall may have been pulled from the card, but we were treated to the return of Dominick Cruz from his near four-year absence, although he wasn’t able to strip Henry Cejudo of his Bantamweight belt, and Anthony Pettis took a unanimous decision win over Donald Cerrone in a rematch that was seven years in the making.
3. UFC 253: Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa – 700,000 pay-per-view buys
Another much-hyped Fight Island event, UFC 253 took place in September and comes in in joint third place alongside UFC 249, with a total of 700,000 PPV buys.
It was, memorably, the night that brought us an awesome title defence from the intriguing Adesanya, who destroyed the former undefeated Paulo Costa in spectacular fashion.
Elsewhere on the card, Jan Blachowicz picked up Jon Jones’ old Light Heavyweight belt by knocking out veteran Dominick Reyes, while Brandon Royval took a submission win over Kai Kara-France in the Flyweight division.
2. UFC 246: Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone – 1 million pay-per-view buys
Naturally, the return of serial-retiree ‘Notorious’ to the Octagon brought with it a million PPV buys. UFC 246 saw Conor McGregor obliterate MMA vet Donald Cerrone less than one minute into the first round.
This wasn’t the only significant fight on the event, however. Holly Holm, women’s Bantamweight champion and multiple boxing world champion also made a return to the cage in the co-main event, facing off against Raquel Pennington five years after they first met. The rematch played out similar to their first fight, with the Preacher’s Daughter once again victorious over the Invicta vet.
1. UFC 251: Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal – 1.3 million pay-per-view buys
Taking the number one spot as the most successful UFC PPV fight of the year is UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal. Another event held on Fight Island, this card was stacked with title bouts and beat McGregor vs. Cerrone by 0.3 million more buys.
Usman successfully held on to his Welterweight belt against last-minute opponent Masvidal – original opponent Gilbert Burns was pulled from the fight in June following a period of ill health. Volkanovski held onto his Featherweight crown despite an admirable attempt to capture it by Max Holloway, while Petr Yan captured the Bantamweight title from Jose Aldo.