Early UFC 157 pay-per-view numbers show strong support for fight card headlined by women

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Very preliminary numbers for UFC 157 indicate Saturday night's show beat UFC 156 numbers by 40 percent, and would have been the most successful lighter-weight fight the company has had in more than a year.

From early indications, Saturday's UFC 157 appears to have more than tripled the all-time record for a combat sports pay-per-view event headlined by women.

A report by Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times listed the show, which saw Ronda Rousey retain the UFC women's bantamweight title over Liz Carmouche via first round armbar, as doing 40 percent above UFC 156 three weeks earlier. UFC 156 was estimated to do in the low-to-mid 300,000 range. A variety of other sources also indicated very early numbers indicated UFC 157 topping 400,000 buys, perhaps significantly. There was also some conjecture that strong word-of-mouth from the show could significantly increase the number with late buys.

Any estimate so quickly after the event can vary significantly from the final number.

If the number holds up, it would beat all UFC shows last year that weren't headlined by title matches in the big-four men's weight divisions: heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight and welterweight. It substantially beat all numbers for the lighter weight men's divisions.

Beating UFC 156 at all would be significant. The show featured Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar for the featherweight title. While neither man had a strong drawing history, they were both long-time champions in different weight classes, Aldo as featherweight champion and Edgar as former lightweight champion who many felt was still the rightful champion in that class. It was something of a lighter weight dream match. That show also featured stronger underneath support withRashad Evans, one of the company's all-time biggest pay-per-view draws, and controversial heavyweight star Alistair Overeem. It was also held on Super Bowl weekend, which has historically been one of the company's traditional major nights of the year.

UFC 157 was heavily marketed around the debut of Rousey, who was pushed as the star of the event, and it being "history in the making" with the first female fight ever in the Octagon. The decision to headline a pay-per-view was met with significant criticism from the start. Those attacks ranged from the idea women would flop in a pay-per-view main event setting, to it being an insult to proven top fighters and former champions Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida to play second fiddle to two women who had never fought in UFC, to the idea the fight should have aired on FOX as opposed to PPV. There was also concern about the choice of the previously unknown Carmouche as Rousey's opponent.

But interest picked up greatly in the final week, due to the tireless promotional efforts from both women. Rousey was able to garner substantial media attention from places that rarely covered UFC events. The company also, for the first time, heavily targeted promotion toward the gay and lesbian media with Carmouche, the first openly gay fighter in the company's history. Carmouche, originally an unnamed opponent, by fight time had made herself a substantial part of the storyline for the show.

The previous record for a women's fight was 125,000 for a June 8, 2001, boxing match with Laila Ali beating Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, billed as Ali vs. Frazier IV, held in Verona, N.Y., a gimmick encounter built on the father's of the two women having one of the great sports rivalries in history.

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