Recent reports showcasing the UFC’s pay per view revenue has confirmed a long held belief that the company's number one revenue generator is not just content, but content of the premium variety.
From its start with ownership under SEG to its eventual purchase by Zuffa, the UFC’s bread and butter has always been pay per view. Along the way, they included other forms of revenue to supplement the bottom line, be it television rights fees, merchandise, online streaming and of course, hefty sponsorship dollars.
But it’s the Saturday night specials that are the biggest injection for the vaults that house the greenbacks. Maximizing this cash infusion has been something they have just about perfected, but have down to a science. Heck, it’s also an art when you think about it.
The brand itself is a driver synonymous with a money well spent (for the most part … settle down). Now add the right mix of star power to headline and co-headline a pay per view card, and the ATM will start spitting out Benjamins in hurry.
From the days of Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture, to the Georges St-Pierre, Brock Lesnar era, someway, somehow, the organization has always found a way to promote and showcase their biggest stars.
Today, it’s Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor. Soon, it will be the return of Jon Jones. Then, a Diaz brother and of course, the aforementioned GSP.
At minimum, there are five marquee names that can be alternated over a 12 month span, that hypothetically should line the pockets of WME-IMG, the latest owners of the sport’s biggest promotion.
Each one of these athletes has their own unique way of selling the show they are tasked to headline. McGregor just needs a microphone. Rousey’s beauty, fighting skills, persona and appearances on daytime and late night television fuel her brand and the level of awareness on the main stream meter. It’s as if everyone is talking about her and asking an upteen amount of questions about her bouts.
St-Pierre is a money making machine. Fans will show up and purchase the pay per view in droves, just to see the if the beloved Canadian still has what it takes.
The curious case of Jon Jones raises many an eyebrow amongst the most die hard fanatics of the sport. What will he do when he returns? Can he be trusted to be clean and to stay away from trouble? Every day, week and month that passes, we lose a piece of Jones in his prime. When he does return, can he recapture the title? And how many fights til gets the title shot?
Then there’s the Diaz brothers, who literally have to do absolutely nothing extra to sell a pay per view. Everything leading up to their bouts is so unpredictable, that we are captivated weeks in advance and the countdown to fight night is almost unbearable. Truth be told, it’s epic.
There are other fighters on the roster, many on the cusp of stardom who are one controversy, quote or performance away from joining the elite pack of money makers. But as it stands right now, the UFC is primed for not only an exceptional end to 2016, but likely a fantastic 2017. One can just imagine if another fighter (or two) can rise above their current status.
Could it be Dominick Cruz? Stipe Miocic? Michael Bisping in 2017? Paige VanZant in years to come?
While in my neck of the woods, (personally speaking) the UFC and MMA as a whole, feels as if it has dropped off significantly, the reality is that outside of my geographical borders, the sport continues to thrive south of the Canadian border, as well as globally, in many different territories.
The key has always been a synergy of the UFC’s brand recognition as well as the fighters who have helped make those three letters what they are today. I will always wish fighters could get paid more, but one of the best ways is to not only make waves inside the octagon, but also outside of it. Reach that mainstream audience, and the well deserved dollars will flow into their bank accounts as well. Just not as much as their employer. Err, partner.