This post is part of a series of snapshots taken from the analyses of what is likely the only ever census of MMA fights (enuMMA17). Please see the table of contents for an up to date list of available instalments.

Average Annual Pay-Per-View (PPV) Numbers

It is a widespread belief that PPV is the be all & end all of the MMA business. Volumes have been written on the decline in viewerships in particular in 2014. We would argue that Whilst PPVs are an important source of revenue for some, the majority of organisers do not have access to this channel. Even those that do, like the UFC do not rely on this revenue alone. The UFC in particular has multiple TV deals, The Ultimate Fighter (UFC) & the true gem Fight Pass.

fig 01: Mean PPV per Year (2001 -2017

Volumes have been written about the 'great dip' of 2014. Less so about 2017.

We beleive that what we are seeing is a convergence of business models. The content providers e.g. UFC are also becoming the channel. The World Wresting Entertainment (WWE) owns film & media interests. One Championship has gone into a partnership with Dentsu & Singtel to form One Esports.

The True Value of a Big Name

PPVs are still very usefull in judging the popularity of events & the fighters that headline them. Please note that 2014 & 2017 are the 2 years that McGregor didn't fight in the UFC. Even GSP's return didn't push the numbers over the 1M mark.

fig 02: PPVs by Year (2001 -2017

Only 14 cards have topped 1 million views.

2020 Update

Since this analysis:

  • UFC 229: Khabib v. McGregor topped 1.9 million views (the current record).
  • UFC 249: Khabib v. Ferguson v. Gaethje is reported to have had 700K views

tbl 01: Fighters With the Highest Draw

(Fighters that have drawn > 1M views at least twice.)
Fighter Count
McGregor 4
Lesner 3
Nunes 2
Rousey 2
Evans 2
Diaz (Nate) 2

Of the 178 PPVs in the period only 14 topped 1 million views. Those 14 events made up 21% of total views for the period. 4 of McGregor's fights made the top 14 & account for 33% of that group. Nate Diaz's inclusion in the group is solely (sadly) only due to the fact that he fought McGregor twice.

This analysis clearly shows why 'the stars' are given so much leeway. A big name headlining a fight card is literaly worth tens of millions in aditiuonal revenue.

We will circle back to the business & businesses of MMA later in this series. For the next while though, we are going to look at the commidity they sell, fights.

- mec