Anderson Silva defeated Chael Sonnen to retain his UFC middleweight championship in one of the most hyped fights in MMA history. It resulted in record-breaking numbers, and now the company must figure out a way to capitalize on that success.
UFC has been making up ground quickly in recent years. It has picked up plenty of disgruntled boxing fans along the way and has steadily grown into a sport that mainstream sports fans care about. That wasn't the case a decade ago.
The progress was evident in the gate numbers. The event drew a crowd of more than 15,000 people in Las Vegas, which adds up to about $7 million in revenue, according to Yahoo Sports. While unconfirmed by the company, it would shatter the previous mark of nearly $5.4 million.
A strong undercard certainly helped. Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz faced off in another rematch after Griffin earned a split-decision victory in 2009 to level the series at one apiece. He left far less doubt this time around, controlling the fight en route to a triumph by unanimous decision.
Cung Le, Demian Maia and Chad Mendes were among the other big winners at UFC 148. Adding depth to the card certainly helped.
But at the end of the day, it usually comes down to star power. Silva and Sonnen provided it. The American nearly upset the dominant champion when they met two years ago, fueling interest in a rematch for the belt.
Even though he was the underdog once again, Sonnen wasn't afraid to talk some trash leading up to the clash, adding to the hype. When people are given reason to believe there's genuine tension between two fighters, the interest level skyrockets.
Slowly, but surely, Dana White and his top-tier draws are starting to figure out how to generate massive interest in top-tier fights. That also leads to more pressure to have more big events. Before Silva and Sonnen, there wasn't a must-see fight since Jon Jones beat Rashad Evans in April.
The frequency of that level of fight will need to increase if UFC wants to keep growing. Silva's big victory gives them momentum heading into the rest of summer and the fall, where there are usually several major cards.
What the UFC does with that momentum will decide if the pace of its rise continues or starts to level off. As with all secondary sports, it comes down to hype. Other fighters can learn a lot from Silva and Sonnen on how to make it explode.
All told, the next five months are crucial for UFC.
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