After saying on Saturday night during the post-fight press conference that UFC 196 was going to break every record, while the word "every" was an overstatement, UFC president Dana White said the event did an estimated 1.5 million pay-per-view buys during an interview with Max & Marcellus on ESPN Radio to put the event in rarefied air.
With the pay-per-view price higher than UFC 100 and the new revenue streams being developed, combined with the $8.1 million live gate which was the third-biggest in company history, UFC 196 would almost surely have generated more revenue than any event in company history.
"Guys, Saturday was amazing for us," White said on ESPN radio. "We broke so many records."
"It was the biggest pay-per-view we ever did. Social media was ridiculous."
"From the prelims, we were No. 1 on all broadcast and cable from 8 to 10 p.m. in all the major demographics."
The show would culminate an amazing run for the company with three of the last four shows topping 1 million buys, a number the company had previously only come close to a handful of times in its history. The all-time record is believed to be 1.6 million buys for UFC 100 in 2009, a show headlined by a heavyweight title unification match between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir. At different times, the UFC 100 number has been reported as between 1.3 million and 1.7 million.
Exact pay-per-view numbers are impossible to get this quickly, but the UFC would have its own internal numbers based on orders off its own web site, and satellite numbers, which are usually a good indicator. Some numbers from different cable sources indicated significantly larger numbers than either UFC 193 or UFC 194.
There ended up being 5.5 million Google searches related to the show, which correlates to both interest in the show and post-fight curiosity regarding the upsets. Only two other UFC events were in that neighborhood, UFC 168, due to Anderson Silva's broken leg, and UFC 193, due to Ronda Rousey's loss to Holly Holm.
The success is likely due to both top fights Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz and Holm vs. Miesha Tate. What a lot of people don't realize about the big UFC numbers is that different stars draw from different groups. In 2015, the McGregor vs. Chad Mendes fight saw more than half of the estimated 800,000 buys come from homes that had not purchased a UFC pay-per-view show up to that point during the year. The Ronda Rousey vs. Bethe Correia fight three weeks later, which did closer to 900,000 buys, saw 68 percent of that audience buying their first pay-per-view event of the year.
So putting McGregor on the same bill with a major women's championship fight, where Rousey's next opponent was likely to be determined, saw the company draw from two large and very different audiences.
The UFC set at least three records regarding its run on FS 1 leading into the show. Coverage of the show broke FS 1 records for the weigh-ins (358,000 viewers), amazing since FS 1 aired the weigh-ins on a three-hour tape delay, the Countdown show (320,000 viewers on a Friday night replay of the show), and the pre-fight show (767,000 viewers). The live weigh-ins, on FS 2, did 145,000 viewers, a record for that station.
The prelims did the second-biggest number for such a show in FS 1 history, slightly trailing UFC 194. But the UFC 194 prelims featured Urijah Faber, a far bigger star than anyone in the UFC 196 prelims. Even so, in the 18-49 demo, UFC 196 beat UFC 194, and the prelims also led FS 1 to being the highest-rated station, including the networks, in prime time on Saturday night.
North Carolina vs. Duke College Basketball on ESPN, airing from 6:30 p.m. to 8:37 p.m., did beat the UFC prelims but most of that show was outside of prime time.