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Will Mayweather-Pacquiao numbers hurt the next UFC pay-per-view events?

UFC's next four events on pay-per-view should all do reasonably well, if not well above usual levels. The question becomes how much will they be hurt after so many people plucked down so much money for Mayweather-Pacquiao.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When UFC 187 was first put together - with the combination of a Jon Jones light heavyweight title defense against Anthony "Rumble" Johnson , Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort for the middleweight title and a lightweight top contenders fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Donald Cerrone - it looked like the first UFC event in more than a year that could threaten the one million buy mark.

We know what happened next.

Even with the loss of Jones and Nurmagomedov, the show by all rights should do strong numbers. Weidman has been an impressive champion thus far and did well projecting himself as a star on the April 18 FOX special. Belfort as a fighter without TRT is a question mark, but the last Belfort anyone has seen in the Octagon (the 2013 version) had head kick knockout wins over Luke Rockhold, Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping. That's a list that looks even more impressive today than it did at the time. With Jones stripped of his title and Daniel Cormier facing Johnson for the vacant title, there's still two title fights. Plus, Travis Browne vs. Andre Arlovski is an important heavyweight bout, because an impressive win by Browne could put him in contention for a title shot next.

There's an old saying about the 800-pound gorilla. But in this case, the gorilla is more like 8,000 pounds. It's the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. That fight did a first estimate of 4.4 million buys on pay-per-view just in the United States alone. That number is so beyond anything ever done on pay-per-view that it makes Bob Beamon's 1968 long jump record look like a run-of-the-mill athletic mark.

Because there has been nothing like that, ever, there is no precedent to predict its seismic after-effects. In 2013, when Mayweather fought Canelo Alvarez in September, a show that did 2.25 million buys, it led to UFC shows from September through November take a hit, all performing well under expectations given the main events. It wasn't until late December, and a double headliner with Anderson Silva vs. Weidman and Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate, that the 2013 Mayweather aftershocks were no longer apparent.

The reality is that boxing and MMA draw largely different audiences. Boxing skews much older, and more ethnic. However, the May 2 fight was a cultural event far more than a big boxing match. I'd suggest it is probable that the vast majority of MMA pay-per-view buyers, even the ones who rarely watch boxing, would have gone out of their way to see it. Will those who paid $100 on May 2, be as willing to spend another $60 on a show three weeks later? Perhaps the two title matches are strong enough that the answer is yes. But a far less popular fight at a lower price point had three months worth of affect the last time.

UFC on pay-per-view in recent months has been a mixed bag.

UFC 184, on Feb. 28, with Rousey vs. Cat Zingano and very little underneath, is estimated at doing 590,000 buys in the United States, a number far beyond what should have been the most optimistic expectations. Rousey's best number as a single headliner and as the first women's fight in UFC history against Liz Carmouche, with far more media hype, drew 450,000 buys in North America. It far exceeded Rousey's main event with Sara McMann a year earlier, that was estimated in the 340,000 to 350,000 buy range. It seems to indicate that Rousey has grown significantly as a star over the past year, to where, on her own, she can carry a pay-per-view at a level just below the biggest male stars the company has ever had.

UFC 185 two weeks later, headlined by Rafael dos Anjos' title win over Anthony Pettis, with a strong undercard that included the first defense of the women's strawweight title, a Johny Hendricks vs. Matt Brown fight as well as Alistair Overeem vs. Roy Nelson, is estimated at between 275,000 and 300,000 buys in the U.S.

UFC 186, with Demetrious Johnson vs. Kyoji Horiguchi, was expected to test the baseline level of the number of fans that would purchase an event just because it's UFC on pay-per-view, is estimated at just over 100,000 buys.

This year has been far more successful than 2014 was, due to bigger fights and fewer injuries. The company may have surpassed its entire 2014 pay-per-view total by May had Jones remained on the show. Without Jones, they should still surpass the total with UFC 188, the Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum heavyweight title fight.

What UFC 186 has shown is that it's not that UFC has created new fans that will buy anything. UFC 186 did in the same ballpark as the Johnson vs. Ali Bagautinov fight did the year before when overall numbers were much lower. The bottom level numbers haven't changed much.

But there is still a huge audience, although nothing looks impressive when compared to Mayweather, that will buy with the right star and the right match-up. UFC 189, with Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor for the featherweight title and Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald for the welterweight title, should also do well. The question is will that also be hurt by the remnants of the Mayweather fight.

Rousey is back as a headliner on Aug. 1, but that fight will be from Brazil, meaning less U.S. media will be covering it. One of the strong points of Rousey as a draw is the amount and level of media that normally doesn't cover MMA strongly that will cover her. But with her being based in Brazil, and not California or Las Vegas, in those final few days will cut that way down.

Barring injuries, the next four shows should do reasonably well. UFC 187 and 189 should top 500,000 buys, perhaps by a good margin. The success of UFC 184 would indicate UFC 190 has a chance to as well.

Yet, the aftermath of the Mayweather fight makes all this uncharted water.

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