The UFC is thought to have posted their best financial year in 2017, but that headline does not tell the whole story.
It should be true that the world’s leading MMA promotion and their UFC Holdings, LLC,(the rated entity following the acquisition of Zuffa by Endeavor, Silver Lake Partners and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.) tallied their most profitable annual results according to a report from Moody’s Investors Service (via Bloody Elbow), earning “well over $700 million” the last 12 months ending March 31 of this year.
The main reason for the success was obviously last August’s Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather boxing match, which drew 4.4 million buys at $100 each on pay-per-view, not including overseas sales. The UFC co-promoted the event with SHOWTIME Sports, and their cut was supposedly in the neighborhood of $180 million.
So that “well over” $700 million figure would break the record or UFC revenue set the prior year in 2016, where a trio of monstrous pay-per-views headlined by McGregor and Ronda Rousey’s perceived last fight propelled the company to an estimated number right at or just over $700 million.
However, the numbers, although most likely being record-setting, don’t paint the full picture. The promotion brought in only 4.142 million PPV buys of their own in 2017, down from 7.55 million as recently as 2015, painting the picture that 2017 would have been an unmitigated disaster without the circus-like event of McGregor vs. Mayweather.
What’s more, you can only put on a spectacle like that once (unless they rematch, which could happen), so it appears the UFC chose to cash in on a short-term profit that appears much greater than it really is, as McGregor has yet to return to the UFC octagon for almost two years now. Without him, actual UFC pay-per-view sales have struggled in a huge way, with June 9’s UFC 225 only drawing a reported 250,000 buys despite two title fights and a host of other high-profile competitors.
Another big factor in the UFC’s record profits was the fact they increased contracted revenue by an estimated $50 million in addition to saving $55 million on cost-saving measures. Of course, the hotly-debated topic of fighter pay, where the UFC paid 14 fighters only $10,000 to compete, a number that is one of the many reasons fighters have discussed unionizing despite never getting a single effort off the ground.