While UFC 235’s main event might not have been particularly compelling on paper, the overall card was a strong offering that has seemingly generated an impressive buyrate on pay-per-view.
MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer reports that early PPV estimates for the March 2nd show, headlined by Jon Jones’ light heavyweight title defense triumph over Anthony Smith, ranges between 520,000 and 650,000 buys.
Reports were that the show lit up the lines in the last two hours before show time.
Aside from the fact that this does establish light heavyweight champion Jon Jones as a reliable top drawing card, pulling these type of numbers with an opponent, Anthony Smith, who nobody really expected to give him trouble, there are some other conclusions about the pattern.
Some credit should probably go to the large audience watching the prelims on ESPN. The prelims, which came right after a major University of North Carolina vs. Clemson basketball game, drew 1,480,000 viewers, the best number for such a show in two years. The show was both entertaining, but also, particularly due to the short Johnny Walker vs. Misha Cirkunovfight, gave time for numerous video packages building the two championships fights, Jones vs. Smith and Tyron Woodley vs. Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title.
With the lead-in and television ratings, there were likely a number of basketball fans watching the prelims and with the hype, considered buying the show.
This is down from UFC 232, when Jones’ TKO of Alexander Gustafsson pulled in an estimated 700,000 buys. Granted, that was the traditional New Year’s Eve pay-per-view and also featured Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes in the co-main event, while the headliner was a rematch of one of the best bouts in UFC history. But when factoring in pre-fight expectations, UFC 235 figures to be a considerable success.
If the UFC 235 buys are higher than even 530,000, then Jones’ only other PPVs that have fared better are both bouts vs. Daniel Cormier, the Gustafsson rematch, and Rashad Evans. Jones vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson did 520,000 buys at UFC 135, while his TKO of Chael Sonnen at UFC 159 drew an estimated 530,000.
The ESPN partnership figures beneficial for PPVs, as more visibility and promotion may result in more prospective buyers. Considering the UFC only had two PPVs all of last year — 229 and 232 — exceed 500,000 buys, so this is already an encouraging start to 2019.
The next UFC PPV is April 13th in Atlanta, Georgia, as Max Holloway fights Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title, while Kelvin Gastelum battles Israel Adesanya for the interim middleweight belt.