UFC Pay Per View – can this model sustain itself?

Well its been the corner stone of UFC Events since UFC 1, the idea of having as many big name fighters as you can onto a stacked card, and then you can through being a subscriber of a television service provider, can then purchase fight cards to view via private telecast.

So far to date the largest ever pay per view fight the UFC has ever put on has been UFC 202 on Aug 20th 2016 where Nate Diaz vs Conor McGregor was the main event selling a whopping 1,650,000 buys.

What is the lowest Pay per view buy rate in history – well its hard to say with complete certainty, because the first few fight cards the sport was really taboo in society then due to its brutality. But one thing is a fact is that UFC 224: Nunes vs Pennington was the worst selling pay per view in ten years of the companies history with a disastrously low 85,000 buys.

Can you see the problem here? There is such a wide scope of returns from running PPV shows as a fight promoter, so lets have a closer look at that.

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Why is ppv in danger?

So for instance, if you over stack a card with big name fighters, then it will do well on pay-perview of course, but then you might leave yourself short for another pay per view a few months after if anyone gets seriously injured.

Under stack a card with big name celebrity fighters, then you will have a poor UFC 224 type of result with incredibly low buys, so you have to get a fine balance of pleasing the fans now, and maintaining longevity and divisional narrative continuity for the future.

Of course when you have a huge star like Conor McGregor, it makes the pay per view model work every time – but when that PPV star sits on the sidelines for a two years (as Conor has done) and when all your other big name star PPV drawing fighters are also on the sidelines – the likes of Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey, Brock Lesnar, GSP etc, then it seriously jeopardises the PPV system overall.

Also nowadays since the UFC’s Fox deal a few years ago, and with ESPN+ now paying $10 million per fight event – while a pay per view show in order to make $10 million, needs to generate about 285,000 buys, then you consider fight pass as well – so TV deals, live streaming and subscription services seem to be starting to outweigh the averages for UFC PPV events.

PPV often has a dirty feel to it, if the fight card isn’t that strong, where as TV cards have a much cleaner pro sport feel to them.

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Its a shift not a full replacement

Bottom line is this is a shift not a replacement, because when you look at a fight like Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, that fight simply has to be a Pay Per View event because it could do well over 2 Million buys –  so the returns should far exceed a standard fight card on TV/streaming/Subscription services etc.

But for the normal week to week service with the amount of fight cards the UFC is putting out, there just isn’t enough Conor McGregor’s out there, so expect to see less Pay per view events and more TV/Streaming/Subscription services.

Personally I can only see a benefit from this, because getting TV deals on giants like ESPN will give much more exposure, meanwhile when you do less PPV events, then it will make each PPV event feel that much more special.

So I hope this post has given some clarity to you about UFC Pay Per View, if you enjoyed this post then give it a like, share it subscribe – leave a comment or question in the comments, and as always stay tuned for more from the world of MMA right here at the MMAGateway.


Marley Dawkins


  1. Huge discrepancy in what a fight can bring in buys for PPV.

    Makes sense to have lower grade fighters on TV instead of PPV.

    That way it doesn’t break the bank to see a lot of fights and then for the big ones pay the PPV fee, invite your friends over, make them pitch in if you want and really enjoy.

    • Hi Alexander, yeah exactly and its that volatility that makes PPV a bit of an outdated game nowadays – as you point out of course for big events PPV still has value, like the upcoming UFC 229: McGregor vs Khabib event.

      But for week in week out smaller events the TV/streaming deals are clearly better for the owners of major MMA organisations.

      Are you training yourself at the moment? You might want to consider a solid treadmill for home use and I love this one as its really well priced for what you get!

      Thanks for dropping in bro!

  2. I was wondering what was happening with pay per view fights as HBO said that were canceling their contract. You broke down the reasoning of why fights (like the Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229) are on pay per view as opposed to ESPN, but the shift is scary. Before reading your article, I thought the pay per view aspect was going away, but by how you broke it down I feel like the shift is less scary as the alternative (more expensive, but less scary). 

    • Hello my friend, yes looking at the UFC pay per view model is really interesting over the years how it has morphed – but everything has an end and TV deals/live streaming is a more eternal model then charging people huge amounts for fight cards on certain nights. Some fights still deserve a pay per view though just like Conor vs Khabib at UFC 229, but they are becoming less relevant in some ways. but its nothing to fear.

      By the way if you are a huge MMA and UFC fan then you might want to get something to immortalise that in your house.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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