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Rousey vs. Holm looks to have topped 1 million pay-per-view buys

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

While the result of the fight opened up far more questions about her future, Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 established a mark that two years ago would have been thought of as unfathomable. Her title loss to Holly Holm not only drew more than 50,000 fans, but also topped 1 million pay-per-view buys.

No UFC event in history had broken both barriers, let alone by a woman's fight.

Industry estimates have the Rousey vs. Holm bantamweight title change doing between 1 million and 1.1 million buys, with most estimates closer to the higher figure. It is expected to be among the four biggest UFC pay-per-view events in its history. Before Rousey, no combat sports pay-per-view event headlined by a woman had ever topped 125,000 buys.

The show drew a UFC record of 56,214 fans to Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, breaking the company's attendance record set at UFC 129 of 55,724 set by the Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields fight at Toronto's Rogers Centre.

It should be noted that the Toronto show was an instant sellout, while the Melbourne show was set up for a significantly larger capacity, was not sold out, and had plenty of empty seats in the upper deck.

The UFC does not release pay-per-view numbers for its fights, although CEO Lorenzo Fertitta told Yahoo Sports prior to UFC 194 taking place that the pay-per-view number would be the third-biggest in UFC history, and based on how it was tracking, could end up as the second-biggest.

Holm's win led to, by far, the most public and media attention to a fight after the fact in company history. The strong belief is that if a rematch takes place, whether it's at UFC 200 or later in 2016, that it would be the biggest pay-per-view event in company history. That's one of the reasons the UFC is so adamant about it being Holm's next fight, not wanting to risk almost a sure record setting event.

Predicting a number for a high-end event is almost impossible, because so much depends on the last few days of hype. A Holm vs. Rousey rematch has the potential to garner attention like no other UFC fight has.

Many people who wouldn't even be UFC fans normally will likely watch it for that reason. Nobody can predict exactly how many, particularly since Rousey draws from outside the usual UFC pay-per-view buyer. It's the same reason the biggest boxing fights with Floyd Mayweather Jr. over the past eight plus years, with Oscar De La Hoya, Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao all greatly outdistanced expectations, as they became cultural events people in the end didn't want to miss.

Rousey's success this year not only destroyed what was previously thought possible for a woman's fight, but also for an overseas show. Previously, the belief in UFC is because of less North American media coverage due to less reporters being sent on site, that pay-per-view events held outside North America would take a hit with the same caliber of star power. No UFC event held outside North America had ever topped 500,000 buys, even a show headlined by both Anderson Silva and B.J. Penn in title fights at the time they were two of UFC's biggest stars.

That dogma was shattered on Aug. 1, for the Rousey vs. Bethe Correia fight. The UFC had spent the previous months heavily promoted its July show in Las Vegas, figuring it had greater potential, between the proposed Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor fight and a far deeper undercard, which also included what ended up being a classic title fight with Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald for the welterweight belt.

With all the late momentum and excitement of UFC 189, barely deterred when Aldo was injured and replaced by Chad Mendes, Rousey vs. Correia, three weeks later, held in Brazil, with far less promotion, ended up doing between 800,000 and 900,000 buys. At the time it was the largest number of an already strong 2015, until the final two shows of the year topped it..

There was internal belief that they were sacrificing Rousey's pay-per-view drawing power putting her in Brazil in exchange for giving the country, which is a strong television market, a marquee star. Once those numbers came in, there was no issue with Rousey headlining in Australia.

In an interview with Sports Business Journal before numbers were available for UFC 193, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta also noted the company had been able to track and found that Rousey was bringing in a different pay-per-view clientele. The normal belief that aside from the regular audience that always watches, if a casual buyer purchases a hyped big show, they won't be ready to buy another one three weeks later.

But Rousey's fight with Cat Zingano on Feb. 28 ended up with more than half of its buyers being people who didn't purchase another show in 2015, at least prior to UFC 193. At UFC 190, for Rousey vs. Correia, that figure was 63.5 percent, meaning somewhere between 508,000 and 572,000 buyers of that show had purchased only Rousey's fight with Zingano and not any other UFC pay-per-view that year.