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Debating the future growth potential of MMA as an industry

By Zach Arnold | February 4, 2009

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Take some time today and read two articles on this subject: First, a positive take from The Las Vegas Sun and second, a negative take from Sam Caplan.

Some thoughts on both sides of the argument. Let’s stick with some positives here.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 20 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

20 Responses to “Debating the future growth potential of MMA as an industry”

  1. Mike says:

    Good points all around. We should also remember that the sport isn’t even legal in New York or Massachusetts, which account for nearly 10% of the US population and a higher proportion of the nation’s disposable incomes.

    If the sport became legalized in states like these, there would be a sharp increase in grass-roots driven popularity, and also a boost in the number of MMA gyms. The Northeast could grow a scene similar to that of Las Vegas or Southern California.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    I disagree about Japan. The same could have been said for the Pro Wrestling market a while back, and that industry never made a comeback.

    I do think we will eventually see a UFC fighters union. The fighters are much more educated then Pro Wrestlers or boxers, who have both failed to unionize.

  3. skwirrl says:

    I thought about something… I certainly know the UFC is doing well… Isn’t it possibly that they are inflating their PPV numbers to give themselves added leverage in driving the stake in Afflictions heart? Meltzer’s cred has been questionable since he got access to the UFC and started regurgitating Dana’s numbers.

    Nobody has yet explained the off the charts buy numbers for 92 other than some sort of random occurance of Christmas giving families a reason to stay at home and buy the show. I wanna know buy numbers on 93… If they are up also I smell a rat.

  4. IceMuncher says:

    The off the chart numbers for 92 is easy to explain. It had the most stacked main card of any UFC event last the year.

    Griffin/Evans was already going to be a huge fight on its own, but when combined with Nog/Mir and Jackson/Silva you’ve got PPV gold.

  5. Michaelthebox says:

    Another factor that could play in to the 92 buys is that I bet a lot of the buyers for UFC 91 were first-time buyers, many of whom may have decided to stick around and buy 92. It helped that 91 was a ridiculously entertaining card in terms of the actual fights.

  6. 45 Huddle says:

    I forget what message board I read it on, but a few people were saying that they typically watch events with a lot of friends, but for UFC 92, they didn’t because it was around the holiday’s, so they ended up ordering it themselves.

    That could have helped the buyrates.

  7. Ivan Trembow says:

    Wow, less than 72 hours after the event, and already there is this in the Las Vegas Sun:

    “While official numbers have yet to be released, White said he expected UFC 94 to surpass both UFC 91 (Randy Couture-Brock Lesnar) and UFC 92 (The Ultimate 2008) as the top-selling pay-per-view event in the organization’s history, with more than 1.3 million buys (which would top the 1.25 million pay-per-views that the Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao “Dream Match” in December generated).”

    How long before the 1.3 million figure gets reported as coming from “cable industry sources” in the Wrestling Observer?

    PS: Frank Caliendo buying ProElite? 🙂

  8. Mike Rome says:

    Ivan, the observer today has all new confirmed buyrates directly contradicting a number of UFC claims. I assume you’ll miss all this when you work up your next rant about Meltzer and the UFC. Seriously, the cherry picking is insane. Meltzer has been spot on on wrestling PPV numbers for years and has the same sources feeding him UFC numbers when they become available.

    By the way, the contradictory numbers Meltzer got are still amazing:

    91: 920,000 buys, could reach just under a million or just over with replays and late buys.

    92: 1,000,000 buys, could go up the same amount.

    94: trending 20% ahead of 92.

    I also look forward to reading this is proof of Dana White lying, when in reality they get early ballpark estimates and a range. Dana is always going to give out the high end of the range. Nobody knows the actual number until the UFC actually gets the money.

  9. IceMuncher says:

    As for the topic of long-term potential for the UFC, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of enthusiastic fans that really understand the sport. For instance, I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks the live crowd has getting better.

    Last weekend, I visited an old college friend, and watched the PPV with him and a bunch of ordinary guys I’ve never met before. I was stunned by how much they knew about the sport and fighters. They appreciated the aspects most of us assume the general fan finds “boring”, like the ground game. As outrageous as it might sound, the vast majority of them were big Machida fans.

    You’ll have to take my word for it, but they were fairly casual fans. They watch most of the events, but they didn’t watch UFC 93 at all, and they knew very little about MMA outside of the UFC. They were looking forward to the UFC 94, but they were anticipating the Superbowl even more.

    Overall, I got the impression that they were fans of the sport, not the spectacle, and if those guys represent a good portion of the viewership, which I think they do, that’s a strong sign that MMA isn’t going to be a short-term fad.

  10. Mike Rome says:

    I had the same experience. Big fans of GSP and Machida. What they don’t like is long clinching battles.

  11. Michaelthebox says:

    “91: 920,000 buys, could reach just under a million or just over with replays and late buys.

    92: 1,000,000 buys, could go up the same amount.

    94: trending 20% ahead of 92.”

    Those numbers are insane. That would indeed put the high-end for 94 at around 1.3 million.

    At this point, the lack of media exposure has shot right past funny, to a complete and total embarrassment.

  12. samscaff says:

    I have also made similar observations of this mysterious ‘casual fan.’ I’ve encountered several of them who really like the technical aspects the ground game.

    Its kind of strange, but the striker-oriented UFC has made submissions an exceedingly rare occurrence, so its really extra exciting when a guy pulls off a great submission. This in turn I think has peaked the interest of some serious fans of other american sports.

    Hardcore american sports fans tend to want to become experts in a sport they really like so they can know what theyre talking about. Like guys dropping baseball stats left and right or seriously debating about basketball and football players. I’ve found that alot of hardcore football fans who like football because of its toughness and excitement cant help but like and respect MMA (UFC) because it is clearly a very tough and exciting sport. Some hardcore sports fans want think they’re an expert in EVERY sport, and they cant help but notice UFC on sportcenter, etc, and want to be an expert on that.

    And even if only a small percentage of hardcore fans of other sports actually become MMA fans, its guaranteed that, as hardcore sports fans, they will take the time to learn and appreciate the technical aspects of the game, so they can become experts (or at least think they are). And as WE all know, THAT is when MMA gets interesting.

    Thats my theory…

    PS- I’ve noticed the number of MMA torrent and streaming video sites has really increased exponentially over the past 1-2 years. It is truly incredible and further points to the staying power of MMA.

  13. skwirrl says:

    “I forget what message board I read it on, but a few people were saying that they typically watch events with a lot of friends, but for UFC 92, they didn’t because it was around the holiday’s, so they ended up ordering it themselves.

    That could have helped the buyrates.”

    I think this quite likely is the truth of the matter. Evans had never proven to be a big seller of a card nor has Mir or Nog in the UFC. 92 wasn’t nearly so stacked in terms of drawing power as people seem to characterize it.

    “I had the same experience. Big fans of GSP and Machida. What they don’t like is long clinching battles.”

    Well nobody likes Clay Guida fights

  14. D.Capitated says:

    I also look forward to reading this is proof of Dana White lying, when in reality they get early ballpark estimates and a range.

    No, see, the difference is that you go buckwild posting the preliminary numbers that Dana spits out, and then when actual numbers come in, you (and others in the media) don’t post them except in other forums than your own with the disclaimer of “Well they were preliminary when Dana told us.” Like, yes Mike, he does give the high end projection, anyone with a brain would assume that. Why you then go and repeat it as unequivocal fact is another story.

    At this point, the lack of media exposure has shot right past funny, to a complete and total embarrassment.

    Penn/GSP got media attention comparable to Oscar/Pacquiao. The reason why its not getting pushed as heavily as, say, NASCAR by the media is because NASCAR is still a bigger deal watched by more people with more marketable stars.

  15. EJ says:

    So what are you claiming there is some great conspiracy by people to try and hide the actual PPV numbers from the public?.

    First off ignoring the fact that no one knows what the actual buys to any PPV are after about a month after it happens except for Dana and company.

    Then ignore the other fact that even when numbers are provided to back up Dana’s claims, all of a sudden Meltzer is a UFC shill that inflates numbers.

    Then we also have to ignore that the same people who bash Dana turn around and believe everything coming from Atencio’s mouth.

    Finally all you end up with is a whole bunch of bitter and angry people who can’t just come to terms with the fact that the UFC is a huge powerhouse that is only getting bigger.

    Sorry but there is no conspiracy against people finding out the real buyrate numbers you can look them up on the Wrestling Observer as soon as Meltzer gets them. Dana for all his hyperbole is pretty much spot on when it comes to the PPV estimates and the sooner people stop the hate they can then talk about the numbers and what they mean. But until then we won’t be going anywhere as long as people are blinded by their hatred for Dana and the UFC.

  16. Mike Rome says:

    my post on the ufc 92 buyrate, laden with language that this is what Dana White said and not necessarily the truth. Start with the title: http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2009/1/8/714783/rumor-ufc-92-broke-mma-buy

    my post on the 91 buyrate, in which I say my estimates are lower: http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2008/11/26/673627/meltzer-ufc-91-does-big-nu

    In the one above, I make it clear in the comments I think its more likely both 92 and 91 did below a million. I don’t know why I’m shocked when you show a complete and utter inability to read, but you consistently lower the bar. Congratulations. It’s one thing to be condescending when you have a degree of intelligence or reason to back it up, but being condescending because harsh tone is all you can do is just sad.

  17. […] Debating the future growth potential of MMA as an industry | FightOpinion.com – Your Global Connection to the Fight Industry. Posted on February 5, 2009 by Media Bistro japan Debating the future growth potential of MMA as an industry | FightOpinion.com – Your Global Connecti…. […]

  18. D.Capitated says:

    Oh, wait, what is the title on UFC 92 again? Guess what? It doesn’t say “Rumor” on the actual title outside of the hyperlink. Funny, that. You then go on to talk about, in the comments, that these figures are exceedingly likely because A) Zuffa cannot lie about buys in Nevada B) Dana doesn’t lie about buyrates, which is a point you actually continue here, with the excuse that Dana merely uses the highest estimate possible. I have news for you: Telling the media your show absolutely did X buys, and then that number turning to be large every single time means you’re intentionally misrepresenting how much business you’re doing. Some people have a term for that.

    Even better though? Here’s the article on the UFC 91 buyrate from December run on your site with your “confirmation”!:

    http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2008/12/10/688965/report-ufc-91-does-more-th

    Again, there’s a bunch of articles for these claimed buyrates, which are sexy and exciting because, well, gee whiz, MMA can’t be denied now with 1.2 million buys on PPV! But when its not actually that, there’s nothing. Silence. No “Report: Actual PPV Numbers”. Nor, I suspect, any lesson learned about spitting out Dana’s preliminaries and “confirming” them.

  19. Steve4192 says:

    Meh.

    My rule of thumb is to take Dana’s preliminary number, deduct 20%, and assume that the PPV buys will fall somewhere between that number and Dana’s number. More often than not, that is exactly what happens.

    I don’t see what the big deal is. Dana’s number is the high end of an internal Zuffa projection. Anyone familiar with promoter-speak should understand that and adjust accordingly.

  20. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    MMA is legal in Massachusetts, it’s just not regulated. There’s a difference.

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