November 3’s UFC 230 from Madison Square Garden in New York City continued the trend of horrific pay-per-view numbers for the UFC. The UFC 230 buyrate is an overall microcosm of where the promotion currently is.
UFC 230 featured a short-notice title heavyweight title defense by Daniel Cormier, who easily submitted popular contender Derrick Lewis. But Lewis apparently isn’t necessarily popular in a mainstream sense. According to MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer, UFC 230 brought in around 250,000 buys.
The number is significantly down from Cormier’s other fights in 2018. His first-round knockout of former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic at July’s UFC 226 brought in a reported 375,000 buys. Miocic’s dominant decision win over Francis Ngannou at January’s UFC 220 is believed to be the third-highest grossing PPV of the year.
October’s UFC 229 featuring Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor was obviously the biggest of the year and also the biggest of all-time. Khabib’s fourth-round submission win over McGregor brought in a reported 2.4 million buys.
But that was easy money.
UFC 230 faced a number of different factors playing against it. One was the fact that it lost Nate Diaz’ supposed return against Dustin Poirier when ‘The Diamond’ was injured. Luke Rockhold was also forced out of his co-main event rematch with Chris Weidman. The event was originally scheduled to have a Valentina Shevchenko vs. Sijara Eubanks women’s flyweight title main event. That would have almost certainly made it the lowest-selling UFC PPV ever.
The event also faced the biggest college football game of the season in Alabama vs. LSU.
And overall, while Cormier helped the bottom line, he continues to prove he isn’t a huge outright PPV draw by himself. He has brought in big numbers but only when he’s against his bitter rival Jon Jones. He may be the only UFC two-division champ to defend each of his titles, but he isn’t a PPV draw on the level of Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, or Jones.
Moreso, only massive crossover stars like McGregor seem to bring in the huge numbers anymore. There was a time when second-tier stars like Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin could bring in 500,000 buys, but those days are long gone. Fans have shown they’re willing to forego most UFC pay-per-view shows and wait for a massive card like UFC 229, which they buy in huge numbers.