While not reaching quite the levels that Dana White projected from trending patterns the night of the show, UFC 162, which featured Chris Weidman ending Anderson Silva's record setting win streak and taking his middleweight title, now looks to have done about 550,000 buys on pay-per-view based on industry sources.
The number would be in the same realm as UFC 159, on April 27, headlined by Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen for the light heavyweight title battling for the second-biggest number so far this year. UFC's high point was UFC 158, on March 16, headlined by Georges St-Pierre's welterweight title defense against Nick Diaz, which is estimated at doing 950,000 buys.
The number indicates that the Chael Sonnen series significantly elevated Silva as a drawing card on pay-per-view, where he'd have to now be considered No. 2 behind St-Pierre. As a comparison with Jon Jones, Jones pulled his number with Sonnen, a far better known fighter than Weidman, and a fight that also had the benefit of the exposure of an Ultimate Fighter season promotion.
It's also well above the estimated 410,000 buys for Silva's fight with Stephan Bonnar in October, although that was a non-title fight at light heavyweight.
White had projected 800,000 buys for UFC 162 based on the factors he and the UFC use the week of the fight to measure interest. For whatever reason, Silva fights traditionally do better in projections. Both Sonnen fights and the Vitor Belfort fight also measured higher in projections before numbers came in than they ended up doing, although all three of those fights were significant successes, falling between 600,000 buys and 925,000.
The number was slightly above most predictions going in. While there are no concrete numbers to back this up, the feeling was this fight would do strong numbers in post-fight sales due to the nature of Weidman's title win.
Weidman was not well-known to the general public coming into the fight, and Frankie Edgar vs. Charles Oliveira, while ending up a great fight, was not a strong marquee co-feature.
Weidman, a former two-time All-American wrestler from Hofstra, had been injured and out of action for a year coming into the fight. He was on a highly-rated FOX show in early 2012, but it was a fight he took on late notice, and had to drop 32 pounds in a week. He beat Demian Maia in that fight, but got tired and didn't look impressive, certainly not making anyone think based on that night that he would beat Silva. His signature win, over Mark Munoz, was on a far less seen Fuel TV special.
UFC promoted the show based on a campaign that many of the biggest known fighters in the company were predicting Weidman to end Silva's six-plus year championship reign and undefeated UFC record. The campaign was based on reality, as a number of major stars were predicting a Weidman win long before it became the focal point of the ad campaign, most notably St-Pierre. Weidman won the title with a second-round knockout, catching Silva unaware as the champion was showboating.
The numbers continue a pattern for UFC. A show with a major main event does as well as it would have in any era. Even when UFC was setting pay-per-view records in 2010, Silva defending against someone who was an unknown without a strong amount of backup support, would not have done numbers at this level. The exception was the first Sonnen fight, but Sonnen is a master promoter. Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche earlier this year was a major success for a woman's fight. St-Pierre did his career best numbers as a headliner on his own with Diaz, although Diaz deserves credit for a show that picked up incredible interest in the last week.
However, the baseline number looks to have fallen. Fans are picking and choosing more. The June 15 show, UFC 161, headlined by Dan Henderson vs. Rashad Evans has been estimated in the 150,000-buy range. Both Henderson and Evans are well-known stars, with Henderson being a future Hall of Famer and Evans having a history of drawing big.
But enough of the regular buyers decided to pass on that show with the higher-profile Silva vs. Weidman fight three weeks away. Henderson had not looked good in his previous fight, with Lyoto Machida, but almost nobody ever looks good against the difficult style of the Brazilian former light heavyweight champion. Evans was coming off lackluster performances in losses to Jones and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.