The UFC 52 Numbers are in
Looking back at last month's back-to-back Ultimate Fighting
Championship weekends, it was premeditated that the crucial season
finale to the wildly popular The Ultimate Fighter reality
television series would be both critically and commercially
UFC president Dana White and his cohorts had been working
feverishly for months on end to secure an essential TV deal and, as
everybody knows, he was successful. Most agreed that the success of
TUF would directly affect the immediate future of the UFC as a
whole, but it wasn't known exactly how much of a positive or
negative impact the Spike TV show had on North America's premiere
mixed martial event.
While precise numbers simply cannot be revealed and determined
until roughly six or more months after a particular event occurs,
preliminary ballpark figures indicate that the first season of TUF
was a success on pay-per-view buys.
It appears that even though TUF wasn't aired on a high-profile time
slot on Fox or NBC, the show did enough to garner interest in the
sport with casual fight viewers. TUF was such a success that it is
conceivable that it'll be only a few years before we see the UFC on
as many networks as professional boxing.
Maybe even sooner.
I contacted Zuffa directly a few days ago in hopes that they'd
reveal the pay-per-view numbers from UFC 52 — a litmus test as to
how much, if any, TUF aided the organization. Naturally, White and
his employees wouldn't elaborate on the subject as they simply
refused to explain the amount of buys they received via PPV.
(Actually, White himself was unable to be contacted.)
This is a tradition that stems back from Zuffa's first UFC events
and for whatever reasons they have, they stick to their guns and
keep their lips sealed.
I poked and prodded over the phone with a few key members within
the Zuffa staff, but those whom I spoke with would not directly
answer my questions. It appears as though White has hired or
constructed a legion of robots that are programmed to ignore and
dodge every question based around the PPV numbers.
That system was effective in the "early days" of Zuffa-era UFCs,
seeing as though the PPV buy rates were appalling. Whether Zuffa
was too embarrassed back then to reveal what the true buy rates
were remains to be seen. But from what I heard from various
reliable sources, there is noting to be ashamed of or embarrassed
about in the aftermath of UFC 52.
Gathering a few snippets from these sources, and after hearing what
was told to me, the results of the PPV buys for the event are more
When talking to Zuffa, the most of what I was told was, "I'm sorry,
I can't reveal that information. We have a strict policy that we
don't tell the public or the media about what our pay-per-views
As the king of trick questions, I tried virtually every trick in
the book except for tickle-torture, but the Zuffa staff was too
savvy and refused to budge. On that alone, I was impressed at their
"What I can tell you is that we are very, very pleased about how
well we did in terms of the pay-per-view buys," I was told.
All I could try to worm out of them was whether UFC 52 did more
than 200,000 buys. And if it was the highest-bought UFC PPV in
"I'm sorry, I can't answer that question,” I heard. “We are not
allowed to tell anybody those numbers. We keep that information
Frustrated, I finally demanded to know if UFC 52 was at least the
highest-selling event in Zuffa’s history.
“I can’t give you specifics — but yes. I don’t even know if I can
tell you that much, but the answer to that question would be ‘yes.’
That’s all I can say.”
With that said, it was difficult for me to run with a story if I
could not receive a straight first-hand answer from anybody within
Zuffa. If they weren't going to tell me, who in the world
Thankfully my full-time job requires delivering to, picking up from
and mingling with many different people. And I am also fortunate
enough that Cox Communications has a national deal with FedEx
Ground and with that alone, I was able to snag a few bits of info
from my anonymous source within Cox.
My source, who asked to not be revealed just in case he or she
might be reprimanded, stated that while the exact numbers can't
officially be tallied until several months from now, it appears as
though UFC 52 did extremely well in terms of Cox PPV buys. It took
a few days for my “customer” to dig up some info, but it came to me
The numbers in ballpark relevance?
My source said that UFC 52, which featured the thrilling battle
between Chuck Liddell and
Randy Couture, sold to well over 200,000 customers. It was also
estimated that UFC 52 produced more than twice as many buys as the
previous high for Zuffa, which was roughly 150,000 buys.
You do the math. That could mean that UFC 52 was able to land over
300,000 PPV buys and if that's accurate, we can look at it in a few
different ways. But first it must be said that these numbers are
Exact numbers simply can’t be determined until a few months down
the road. It also is uncertain that the Zuffa-era UFC’s previous
all-time high for PPV was around 150,000. It could be less. It
could be more. Moreover, my source at Cox wasn’t able to spend all
of his or her time digging up the numbers, as that isn’t his or her
regular duty. So even those numbers aren’t entirely accurate.
But “well over” 200,000 buys says enough, especially if Zuffa’s
previous high was 150,000 or so. It also should be noted that my
source explained to me that Cox’s PPV buy-rate system is a little
peculiar in the sense that it doesn’t exactly read like a book.
With that said, he was just guesstimating at the figures he or she
pulled up, but promises that it was as accurate as he or she can
It's a no-brainer that the Spike TV reality show created such
frenzy that possibly around 100,000 more people dug into their bank
account to buy UFC 52. The MGM Grand Garden Arena was sold out in
advance and according to the UFC and Brener Zwikel &
Associates, the firm hired by Zuffa to handle media credentialing,
at least 50 to 70 additional media requests had to be denied.
So with the dozens of additional media requests, the sold out arena
and roughly 100,000 more PPV buys, it is more than safe to claim
that TUF was a direct catalyst for the success of UFC 52.
This also is an indication that the UFC and MMA are gaining
momentum in the mainstream. And as each event passes more and more
fans are turned onto the sport. Since the conclusion of TUF's
season's finale, I can't tell you how many emails I have received
with the header "New UFC fan for life," or "TUF turned me onto the
While that alone is enough to pique my desire to write another
piece on the event, it was when I heard from my source at Cox and
how the few at Zuffa were joyfully dodging the questions that this
very column was scribed. The popularity of our beloved sport
continues to rise and it appears as though TUF was the
Zuffa, as everybody knows by now, has season two already lined up
and will debut on Spike TV on August 22. Welterweights and
heavyweights will be showcased this time around and as long as
Zuffa and Spike TV don’t fudge up the brilliant formula, everything
should fall into place.
Hopefully the second season can equal what Zuffa’s network TV
maiden voyage did, and if that occurs look out. We may just see
Matt Hughes on the cover of
a Wheaties box, David
Loiseau and his relatives selling Campbell’s Chunky Soup or Joe
Riggs in Somalia, with tears in his eyes, begging you to adopt
GRRRR!!!More on Sherdog.com Mobile