Last night Georges St-Pierre failed to sell out a building in Montreal for the first time in his UFC career.
UFC president Dana White announced an attendance of 17,249 at the post-fight press conference following the event.
St-Pierre’s previous two trips to the UFC’s prime location in Canada left the Bell Centre packed wall to wall with fight fans, but this weekend’s UFC 154 event featured roughly 4,000 less fans than his other trips inside the cage in Montreal—a number that should be a little confusing for the majority of fight fans.
So what caused the sudden drop in attendance for one of the most anticipated bouts in all of 2012?
The initial reaction for most people is going to be to blame St-Pierre, and after a year and a half away, it is possible that his star power has taken a turn for the worst over the last few months. Perhaps his name alone isn’t quite enough to get his hometown fans to shell out the price of admission, or even worse, the fans have grown tired of seeing Georges St-Pierre headline 60 percent of all Montreal fight cards over the last few years.
However, as easy as it is to try and pin the problem on St-Pierre, the UFC made a fatal mistake by delivering a lackluster main card outside of the two featured bouts—and that is likely the cause for the decline in attendance last night.
Even the most devoted UFC fans will admit the remaining three fights on the PPV main card last night were met with minimal anticipation, and when you’re a fight fan looking to buy tickets to a UFC event, usually the main event alone isn’t quite worth the heavy ticket price.
No disrespect to guys like Francis Carmont, Rafael dos Anjos and Pablo Garza, but the vast majority of fight fans likely knew next to nothing about most of the men competing last night, and it’s tough to sell tickets to a fight between two guys that fans have never heard of.
As popular as St-Pierre is in Montreal, he can’t be depended on to sell out shows by himself, and the UFC basically threw all of their eggs into one basket labeled “GSP” on Saturday night.
It was a risky strategy, albeit one that almost worked, but the UFC should have no trouble filling the arena the next time they decide to make a trip to Montreal, as long as they provide a more high profile fighter.
Hopefully this is considered a learning experience and the UFC doesn’t bank on their high profile fighters to carry the promotional burden by themselves from now on, but if this mistake continues to be made, we can expect attendance to fall no matter where the promotion decides to hold their events.