Ever since the 1970s, Pay-Per-View (PPV) has been the biggest money maker for all of combat sports. The "Thrilla in Manilla", the iconic third and final match up between Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier, introduced the concept of PPV and for the next few decades PPV was there to stay.
Thanks to the continued efforts of WWE CEO Vince McMahon, the WWE really showed the power of PPV. However in recent years, the WWE PPV buyrates (the estimated amount of purchases) have sunk into the gutter, prompting the company to shift towards a subscription network as their main revenue source. While the UFC hasn't yet abandoned PPV, it appears that they might be preparing for the continuing fall of PPV with the 2014 launch of their UFC Fight Pass digital service.
Until then, the UFC will continue to ask people to spend $60 on cards that wouldn't be worth the gas needed to go pick up the snacks to watch the event. Every once in a while though the UFC will put out a card that is actually pretty damn awesome and is totally worth the money. Sometimes it is just a main event which absolutely captures the public's imagination and other times it is an ensemble cast of fighters which provides something for everybody in the audience. Whenever it's one of those two cases, the PPV buyrates numbers explode and the Ferttita brothers along with Dana White throw massive amounts of cash around the UFC offices (probably).
Now since the UFC is a private company, these aren't official numbers from the UFC so I will be going by the numbers from mmapayout.com who has compiled their numbers from the reports of Dave Meltzer, the longtime pro wrestling and MMA journalist. So having said that, here we go with the top 10 biggest buyrates in MMA history. And yes, all of them are UFC events.
10 UFC 94: St-Pierre vs. Penn - 920,000 buys
Speaking of "Rush", UFC 94 is the only time where two champions competed against each other as the UFC Lightweight Champion B.J. Penn took on welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre, a main event which drew an impressive buy rate of 920,000 buys.
9 UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen II - 925,000 buys
Before I started writing about MMA, (right here, on The Sportster!) I was just a fan of MMA and from what I remember, this was the most anticipated UFC fight that I could remember. Anderson Silva did a great job being the quiet, charming troll while Sonnen pulled every pro wrestling trick imaginable to hype this event and it paid off with a buy rate of 925,000 buys.
8 UFC 158: St-Pierre vs. Diaz - 950,000 buys
Call this one the night of the welterweights. From my hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, I give you UFC 158 with a buy rate of 950,000.
The animosity between welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz is what no doubt drove the buyrate number but that isn't to say that this card was lackluster. The co-main event between Carlos Condit and Johny Hendricks brought viewers to their feet by giving them a fight of the year candidate and Jake Ellenberger's smashing first round KO of Nate Martquardt essentially put an end to Martquardt's quest for a second UFC title shot.
7 T-6. UFC 114: Evans vs. Jackson - 1 million buys
Bad blood sells and that was evident more than ever with this card featuring a main event pitting Rashad Evans and Quinton Jackson competing for a shot at the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship, an event which drew a cool million buys.
6 T-6. UFC 92: Griffin vs Evans - 1 million buys
Ah yes, back in the days when winning The Ultimate Fighter still seemed like a big deal. The only title fight between two Ultimate Fighter winners, Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans fought for the UFC Light Heavyweight championship which drew 1 million buys.
5 UFC 91: Lesnar vs. Couture - 1.01 million
In just his fourth pro fight, former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar took on the legendary Randy Couture for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Did it make sense from a sporting perspective? No. Was it fair to the rest of the heavyweights? Hell no. Did it draw over a million buys? You're damn right it did.
4 UFC 168: Weidman vs. Silva II - 1.025 million buys
The first fight was supposed to be another successful title defence for "The Spider". Sure, some people were picking the challenger for the upset but Anderson Silva was Anderson Silva- he had to win right? Nope, instead the Long Island menace Chris Weidman took Silva's title at UFC 162 by knockout in the 2nd round. Was it a fluke? Well, 1,025,000 buys means the public wanted to see.
3 UFC 66: Liddell vs. Ortiz II - 1.05 million buys
Prior to Brock Lesnar and George St-Pierre's arrivals, it was hard to dispute Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz's status as the biggest draws in the relatively underground sport of MMA. Their beef looked to be settled once and for all (until plans for a third match began years later) on the UFC's final card of 2006 which drew 1,050,000 buys.
2 UFC 116: Lesnar vs. Carwin - 1.06 million buys
Advertised as the biggest heavyweight fight in UFC history, UFC 116 was main evented by a title fight for the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Championship between champ Brock Lesnar and interim champion Shane Carwin. Both men were giants who needed to cut weight in order to meet the 265 pound heavyweight limit and this clash of the titans drew 1.06 million buys.
1 UFC 100: Lesnar vs Mir II - 1.6 million buys
If it was evident so far by this countdown, Brock Lesnar is kind of a huge PPV draw. Georges St-Pierre is also a giant PPV draw so what happens when you put the two on the same card? An absolutely smashing UFC PPV record of 1.6 million buys, easily the biggest in the history of the company.
What drew this incredible number? Try everything. Being a huge milestone for the company, the UFC threw everything they had on the card and it paid off big time. The Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar build-up ensured that everyone had their eyes glued to the screen and the streaking Thiago Alves, fresh off dominant performances versus Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck looked to be a big test for GSP (he wasn't). If two title fights wasn't enough, the world laid witness to one of the best KOs of all time in the form of Dan Henderson's 2nd round obliteration of Michael Bisping's face.
Elsewhere on the card Yoshihiro Akiyama made his anticipated UFC debut, Jon Jones continued his rise to the top of the Light-Heavyweight division and Mark Coleman hammered out his final MMA victory in the form of a unanimous decision win over Stephan Bonnar. This card had a little bit of everything and because of that it is the highest drawing card in UFC history.
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