In 20 years of MMA in the United States, only one organization has been able to tame the savage stallion of pay-per-view. That organization is the UFC of course, whose business model is driven by the revenue of pay-per-view more than any other income generator. All other promotions who have tried to catch a ride on the bucking beast – like PRIDE FC, the World Fighting Alliance, and others – regretted the decision to try almost immediately. When it comes to consumers shelling out dough to watch fights, only the UFC has had a worthy enough brand.
That knowledge was in the forefront of most pundits minds when Bellator announced their desire to do a PPV show, and when it come time for predictions, the numbers bandied about were low ones. Given that the ceiling for an absolutely “mega” UFC card is around a million buys, the current average hovers are 350,000, and the only non-UFC organization to break 100,000 buys was the ill-fated Affliction promotion, predictions for Bellator 120 were around 50,000.
And why not? After all, star player Eddie Alvarez was sidelined with a concussion a week before, which threw Bellator 120’s main event into disarray, and the only recognizable names on the card to mainstream audiences were a washed-up Tito Ortiz and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The card was a disaster waiting to happen – a disaster only ardent MMA fans would likely tune in for.
WRONG. According to Sherdog (and confirmed by veteran journos Dave Meltzer and Luke Thomas), Bellator’s inaugural PPV cracked 100,000 buys.
Viacom-owned Bellator MMA pushed north of 100,000 buys for their May 17 card, according to industry sources with information regarding the promotion’s debut foray into the pay-per-view business.
The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release buy-rate data, stated that the information will be readily available in Viacom’s SEC filings later this year.
Though that number isn’t even in the same ballpark of what the UFC pulls in, it’s a remarkable figure – and it has industry-wide implications.
First of all, does that number mean that Bellator has become (or will become) a brand strong enough to take advantage of the pay-per-view model? If it does, that bodes extremely well for the number two MMA promotion in the world, who heretofore has relied on television licensing and ticket sales to make money.
If, however, the 100k number is not tied to the Bellator product, that’s great news for other MMA organizations, as it signals a shift in what kind of MMA the public is willing to spend money on to watch. For two decades it’s only been the UFC that’s worthwhile to the consumer. Has the sport reached a turning point where now any flavor of fighting will do?
There’s a lot of speculation that can be done in regards to the buyrate numbers, but at the moment, it’s probably best to just wait until more firm, concrete digits are handed down. But until then, we can at least utter the word “Wow” over and over again.