Last Saturday night’s (Sat., July 7, 2018) UFC 226 from Las Vegas was supposed to be the biggest UFC card of the year.
Featuring a heavyweight superfight between record-breaking champion Stipe Miocic and light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, the card also boasted a stacked lineup of top-level talent that, for the most part, produced an extremely entertaining night of action-packed fights.
True, the card lost its Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega co-main event only three days before fight night and the new co-main, an awaited heavyweight slugfest between Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou that turned out to be anything but didn’t deliver, but the prospect of Miocic vs. Cormier for the heavyweight title was legitimately one of the best match-ups in UFC history, at least on paper. However, that reportedly failed to translate into success at the box office despite a shocking KO from Cormier.
According to MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer, the card didn’t exactly do gangbusters at the box office, continuing a disturbing trend of UFC PPVs that have failed to draw anything resembling great numbers as of late:
“The expectation going in was that this would be the biggest show so far this year. But the most preliminary of pay-per-view estimates have the show doing a little under 400,000 buys. There are those who believe the loss of Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega hurt interest, but Cormier vs. Miocic on its own should have been able to do bigger numbers.”
The preliminary card did decent numbers by comparison, with the bouts earning FOX Sports 1 the top spot for cable sports networks. In terms of overall television sports broadcasts, the UFC got third place behind NASCAR on NBC at 4,437,000 viewers and Major League Baseball on FOX at 2,217,000 viewers. The prelims peaked at 800,00 viewers for the featured Paulo Costa vs. Uriah Hall match.
However, the FS1-aired pre-fight show only earned 254,000 viewers and the post-fight show only 155,000 viewers, very disappointing figures considering the circus-like atmosphere Brock Lesnar fostered after Cormier’s win over Miocic.
The low pay-per-view buys continue for the world’s MMA leader, with UFC 226’s estimated sub-400,000 buys following up June’s concerning 250,000 buys – a number that was initially projected at a paltry 150,000 buys. That’s why the UFC is bringing Lesnar back, but at this rate, it may not be worth the perceived insult to the integrity of the UFC – if it has any left at this point.