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Power Ranking the UFC's Top PPV Draws

Andrew SaundersCorrespondent IIJanuary 9, 2017

Power Ranking the UFC's Top PPV Draws

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    UFC 147 was plagued by card changes and was widely considered to be the worst pay-per-view offering of the last few years. MMAmania.com predicted that the event was "set for massive failure" and they were right. Only 175,000 viewers bought the irrelevant event and who could blame them.

    But what about UFC 150? 

    An early report from MMAmania.com indicates that the card headlined by a championship fight between popular stars Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar would pull in only 190,000 buys.

    Are the elite fighters of the lightweight division unable to pull in viewers? Jonathan Snowden seems to think so. His article on the poor buyrates generated by main events in lighter weight classes has a lot of interesting points, but it begs a question: If the little guys don't draw, who does?

    In the interest of optimism, here is a look at the top 10 PPV draws currently in the UFC. 

    All pay per view numbers in this article come to you via MMAPayout.com Blue Book.

10. Forrest Griffin

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    Latest PPV Figures:

    UFC 126 - 725,000 (co-main event)
    UFC 134 - 335,000* (co-main event)
    UFC 148 - 1,000,000 (co-main event)

    * UFC 134 has a considerably low buyrate which can partly be explained by a large power outage along the East Coast caused by Hurricane Irene and partly explained by Yushin Okami's presence in the main event.

    Ultimate Fighter winner and former light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin is the reason that many people watch MMA in the first place. His triumphant battle with Stephan Bonnar is widely considered to be the most influential fight in the course of the sport's history.

    Largely relegated into co-main event status since losing his belt, Griffin has helped to draw in additional buys by competing in exciting battles with Rich Franklin, Tito Ortiz and Shogun Rua.

    Griffin's next fight is against Chael Sonnen at UFC 155 in his fourth consecutive co-main event appearance.

9. BJ Penn

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    Latest PPV Figures:

    UFC 137 - 280,000 (main event)
    UFC 127 - 260,000 (main event)
    UFC 123 - 500,000 (co-main event)
    UFC 118 - 535,000 (main event)

    While the numbers for BJ Penn's last two events are not tremendous, it's important to note that both shows featured non-title main events and didn't have much of a supporting cast. At UFC 137, the co-main event was Matt Mitrione vs. Chieck Kongo. 

    At UFC 127, Jon Fitch was in the main event, and that's a hard sell regardless of who he stands across from. Additionally, the co-main event was Michael Bisping vs. Jorge Rivera.

    Seven consecutive cards featuring Penn would sell more than 400,000 units, spiking at 920,000 units for his superfight against Georges St-Pierre at UFC 94.

    Penn comes out of retirement to fight Rory MacDonald at UFC on Fox 5 in December.

8. Dan Henderson

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    Latest PPV Figures:

    UFC 139 -  290,000 (main event)
    UFC 100 - 1,600,000
    UFC 93 - 350,000 (main event)

    Dan Henderson left the UFC in 2009 after scoring one of the greatest knockouts in MMA history at UFC 100 against Michael Bisping. At the time, Hendo was considered to be the biggest threat to Anderson Silva, and he went to Strikeforce after contract negotiations went sour with Zuffa.

    Henderson's star power continued to grow by winning the Strikeforce light-heavyweight championship, and then knocking out top heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko last year.

    In his most recent bout, Henderson joined with Shogun Rua to put on one of the greatest fights that the sport has ever seen. 

    Consistently proving that he can put up solid numbers in non-title bouts, Henderson gets a chance to put a belt around his waist in two weeks at UFC 151.

7. Nick Diaz

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    Latest PPV Figures:

    UFC 143 - 400,000 (main event)
    UFC 137 - 280,000 (main event)

    In the words of Eric Bischoff, controversy creates cash!

    Although fans weren't lining up to buy the lackluster UFC 137 after Georges St-Pierre dropped off of the card, Nick Diaz and BJ Penn were able to put together nearly 300,000 purchases on Halloween weekend.

    Following that up with an interim title fight against Carlos Condit, Diaz pulled in 400,000 buys in his return. When you consider that he faced a first-time headliner like Condit, that is a tremendous number.

    With the controversy surrounding his one-year suspension for marijuana metabolites, Diaz has divided the MMA world between his supporters and those who think he is a clown. No matter what side of the line you find yourself, it's likely that you will be buying the card on which he returns.

6. Chael Sonnen

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    Latest PPV Figures:

    UFC 148 - 1,000,000 (main event)
    UFC 136 - 225,000 
    UFC 117 - 600,000 (main event)

    Looking at the buyrate for UFC 136, it's easy to dismiss Sonnen as a legitimate draw. However, the American Gangster was in neither the main event nor co-main event when squaring off against Brian Stann.

    Oddly enough, there were two title fights on that card, and somehow, the event pulled one of the worst buyrates in recent years.

    Sonnen's mouth is the biggest selling point for fights, as his verbal highlight reel consists of more one-liners than open mic night at a local comedy club. Perhaps UFC 136 would have sold better were it not for the mutual respect that Sonnen has for Stann.

    From MMATorch.com:

    "I think Stann's an awesome guy. I didn't think he could get by Leben. Nobody has dominated Chris Leben like that — ever — in his entire career. That was kind of like an "Oh Wow" moment when I saw that in my living room. That was a special performance."

    You'd better believe that the UFC hopes Sonnen tears through Forrest Griffin in order to create a new challenger for Jon Jones and his empty title picture. The mouth of Sonnen is box-office gold, as proven by his seven-figure buyrate for headlining UFC 148.

5. Junior Dos Santos

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    Latest PPV Figures:

    UFC 146 - 560,000 (main event)
    UFC 131 - 330,000 (main event)
    UFC 117 - 600,000

    With a coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter ending in a non-title fight with non-coach Shane Carwin, it is no surprise that UFC 131 didn't break records on pay-per-view. However, a heavyweight collision between two top-ranked strikers should have done better business.

    Current champion Junior dos Santos is one of few fighters to ever win a championship on a non-PPV broadcast. Knocking out Cain Velasquez in only 64 seconds, Junior dos Santos has become a major player for the UFC.

    With a heartwarming tale that saw JDS rise from poverty and climb to the pinnacle of mixed-martial arts, dos Santos headlined UFC 146 against former champion Frank Mir.

    Considering that the PPV saw a plethora of changes to the card and an unworthy title challenger moved into the main event, the all-heavyweight event was able to sell nearly 600,000 units.

    At UFC 155, Cigano will meet Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight championship. With Chael Sonnen vs. Forrest Griffin in the co-main event, it's safe to suggest that the event will bring great numbers.

4. Rashad Evans

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    Latest PPV Figures:

    UFC 145 - 700,000 (main event)
    UFC 133 - 310,000 (main event)
    UFC 114 - 1,050,000 (main event)
    UFC 92 - 1,000,000 (main event)

    A main-event fighter since 2007, Rashad Evans is proof that MMA fans are willing to pay to see the bad guy get beaten down.

    Hated for his cockiness but loved for his skills, Evans is one of the best fighters that the sport has ever known. Unfortunately, he has been unable to win back the UFC light-heavyweight championship that he once held.

    You'll notice that Evans has main evented two PPV events that sold more than 1,000,000 units. He is the only person currently on the UFC roster to achieve this feat. 

    Additionally, Evans' main event at UFC 114 remains the only non-title fight to garner a seven figure buyrate.

    Evans would rank higher on this list, however, a UFC 133 bout with Tito Ortiz proved that fans aren't willing to pay to see him fight regardless of the opponent. The men above him on this list don't have that problem.

3. Jon Jones

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    Latest PPV Figures:

    UFC 145 - 700,000 (main event)
    UFC 140 - 480,000 (main event)
    UFC 135 - 520,000 (main event)
    UFC 128 - 490,000 (main event)

    Aside from a long-awaited grudge match with Rashad Evans, each of Jon Jones title bouts has been right around 500,000 buys. With only 40,000 purchases separating his fourth- and second-highest buyrates, it's odd that Jones would cite low numbers as a reason that he does not wish to give Lyoto Machida a rematch for the belt. 

    "Between (Mauricio) Shogun (Rua), (Quinton) Rampage (Jackson) and Rashad (Evans), Lyoto was my lowest draw. Why would I want to fight someone where it's a lose-lose situation? "I won't make money on it. And he's a tricky fighter."

    While Jones is accurate in that statement, it appears that he is looking for a way out. The Machida event sold only 10,000 fewer units than the bout with Shogun. But to hear Jones tell the story, those numbers are 150,000 apart.

    In any case, the light-heavyweight champion is still growing as a star and saw 700,000 orders of his UFC 145 bout with Evans.

2. Anderson Silva

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    Latest PPV Figures:

    UFC 148 - 1,000,000 (main event)
    UFC 134 - 335,000 (main event)
    UFC 126 - 725,000 (main event)
    UFC 117 - 600,000 (main event)

    While many of you would argue that Anderson Silva deserves the top spot, fans have been tentative to put down their hard-earned dollars for a man who delivers inconsistent performances.

    The Spider is universally respected as the best fighter in the business today. Partly for that reason, fans aren't willing to pay to see him square off against just anybody. Even in 2010 boom, Silva's title defenses averaged only 550,000 buys.

    The worst number on his record came last year when Silva avenged his most recent loss against Yushin Okami. While Hurricane Irene affected the buys (as discussed on the Forrest Griffin slide), it still comes down to the willingness (or lack thereof) of fans to purchase a fight where The Spider could dance his way around an opponent unwilling to strike.

    UFC 148 should have rivaled UFC 100 in terms of buyrate, but the epic rematch between Silva and Sonnen, along with Forrest Griffin vs. Tito Ortiz III and other key matchups weren't enough to get anywhere near the record.

    Silva may be the best fighter alive, but he certainly isn't the biggest draw.

1. Georges St-Pierre

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    Latest PPV Figures:

    UFC 129 - 800,000 (main event)
    UFC 124 - 800,000 (main event)
    UFC 111 - 770,000 (main event)
    UFC 100 - 1,600,000 (co-main event)

    Georges St-Pierre is not only the most dominant welterweight in UFC history, but he is also one of the most consistent draws that the organization has ever seen.

    With only 30,000 purchases separating a title defense against Strikeforce champion Jake Shields and another against super-underdog Dan Hardy, it is clear that fans will pay to see GSP fight, regardless of his opponent.

    Perhaps the most telling aspect of GSP's popularity came at UFC 124. With a co-main event of Stefan Struve vs. Sean McCorkle, a rematch between the champ and Josh Koscheck convinced 800,000 people to shell out $45.

    Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the champ hasn't competed since April of 2011. When St-Pierre returns in November, a title unification bout against Carlos Condit is sure to draw excellent numbers.

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