UFC 108: Can Rashad Evans and His Drawing Power Save The PPV Buyrate?

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UFC 108: Can Rashad Evans and His Drawing Power Save The PPV Buyrate?
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Much has been made about the perceived disaster that is UFC 108.

Some have said that if the UFC had a little more foresight they should have canceled the event all together, folded it into UFC 109, or at the very least transitioned it into a free Spike TV show.

The UFC held steady with "the show must go on" and did their best to piece together an entertaining fight card, one that would prompt enough fans of the sport to purchase the much maligned pay per view.

UFC President Dana White actually went on record saying that if you don't like the fight card, don't buy it.

His exact quote read as follows:

"You get 10 (expletive) hardcores on the Internet going, 'Oh, this card (stinks), there’s no this, there’s no that.' Then guess what: Don’t (expletive) buy the card! It’s usually the ones that they’re bitching about that end up being some of the best. What happened with the last card is people were (complaining) because the Rashad Evans-Rampage fight wasn’t happening. Look at what happened. This is my philosophy on this, if you’re a (expletive) fight fan, we’re going to put on good fights for you."

Given that this sport is a business, just like every other sport, the loaded question from a business stand point is, just how many PPV buys will UFC 108 bring in?

The answer to that question lies greatly with how many fans want to see Rashad Evan's in action.

MMAPayout recently published an article listing their 2009 Power Rankings . The list ranks fighters based on how much PPV revenue they are credited with bringing in for the UFC.

During 2008-2009, Evans brought in nearly 75 million dollars in gross PPV revenue. This was achieved over the course of three events: UFC 88, UFC 92, and UFC 98.

This puts Evans in sixth place behind Brock Lesnar, B.J. Penn, Frank Mir, Georges St. Pierre, and Forrest Griffin. Given that Evans only performed in three events, while everyone had 4-5, its a very impressive number.

If the grudge match fight between Evans and "Rampage" Jackson had gone down at UFC 107, Evans number would have most likely broken the 100 million dollar mark, placing him in third.

When looking at the three events Evans did take part in, how much impact he actually had can certainly be picked apart.

At UFC 88, Rashad Evans was taking on one of the most popular fighters in the history of the sport in Chuck Liddell. While people may have opened their wallets to see Liddell, the net result for Rashad's drawing power was great, given that he crushed the former champ in front of almost 500,000 PPV purchasers.

At UFC 92, Evans headlined the 2008 year end event opposite Forrest Griffin in a light heavyweight title fight. Evans would capture the belt from Griffin in front of a million plus PPV buyers. While not everyone was tuning in to see Rashad, the net benifit was again great.

At UFC 98, Evans would put his belt on the line against an undefeated Lyoto Machida. He went on to lose his belt in devastating fashion in front of approximately 650,000 PPV viewers. While more of the credit for the healthy PPV buy rate may be attributed to the grudge match between Matt Hughes and Matt Serra finally taking place, Evans still benifited...bad publicity is not ideal, bad publicity is better than no publicity, right?

Since then, Evans has been sidelined do to season nine of the hit reality show, The Ultimate Fighter, where he coached opposite "Rampage Jackson." The show, thanks in part to Kimbo Slice, was the most viewed season to date.

The season was a bit anti-climatic given that "Rampage" pulled out of their slated UFC 107 fight to chase his Hollywood dreams. Despite that, one would have to think that Evans has reached the zenith of his popularity coming out of the show and heading into his main event fight at UFC 108.

Add to that what is at stake.

A fight between Rashad and "Rampage" is still very much on the table for 2010.

Dana White has said that Evans needs to win his fight with Thiago Silva to seal the deal on said fight. Whether or not that is the case, a win for Rashad creates the necessary momentum needed, while a loss could kill enough buzz to jeopardize it.

Fight fans will certainly want to see how Evans performances given the situation, no?

So, UFC 108 will be the first chance for us to truly see what kind of PPV numbers Evans can bring in on his own laurels. Recently the UFC has been beefing up cards with solid co-main events to ensure strong PPV buy numbers.

UFC 107 did over 600,000 buys with B.J. Penn and Frank Mir anchoring the main and co-main events. UFC 101, which did over 1 million buys, also featured B.J. Penn along with a co-main event superfight between Anderson Silva and Forrest Griffin.

When a UFC event only had one main event, the numbers don't simply aren't as high.

UFC 104, which hosted "Machida vs. Shogun" hauled in 500,000 PPV buys while UFC 102 which featured "Couture vs. Nogueria" garnered around 435,000 buys.

Can we expect a card headlined by "Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva" to realistically do anywhere near that?

Michael Rome over at Bloody Elbow believes "this is truly the show that will test the North American base number."

He goes on to add:

My suspicion is that the base is somewhere around 300,000 buys, which is still a healthy number, but hitting that base over and over again will push it lower.  The only hope for a decent number is Rashad's popularity coming off the reality show, but I'm hard pressed to see this doing better than 325,000, and I wouldn't be surprised if it dipped as low as 260,000 buys.

260,000 would certainly be a painful number for the UFC to absorb. The last time a UFC event dipped below 300,000 PPV buys was UFC 85: Bedlam which featured Matt Hughes taking on Thiago Alves in a non-title main event.

It is worth noting the event took place over in England; whenever an event takes place over in Europe the buy rate is never as high, given the time-zone differences.

European PPV events this year, UFC 93 and 99, did 350,000 and 360,00 PPV buys respectively. The main events featured Rich Franklin taking on Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva respectively.

Two last things to consider:

1) The time of year: Will fight fans holiday 'spending spree' state of mind still be in play or will their their budgets "be put on ice."

2) Bitter or not: Will the 'base' of hardcore fans be feeling stingy given the lack of star power on this card or will they give in and get their fix of violence to kick of the year.

Given all that, how many PPV buys do you think Rashad & Co. will do?

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