Ronda Rousey's career may be in jeopardy after her loss to Amanda Nunes on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas, but the idea that her first loss to Holly Holm damaged her drawing power ended up not being the case.
Despite the show being on a Friday night, instead of the more familiar Saturday and the lack of promotion of the show by Rousey, the early estimates are that the show did 1.1 million buys on pay-per-view. The number would be similar to both the Rousey vs. Holly Holm fight, which was her biggest show to date, and also in the same range as the far more heavily promoted Nov. 12 show from Madison Square Garden headlined by Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez, which was the most loaded lineup in company history.
It was UFC's fifth 1 million-plus buy show of 2016. The only sport in history that had ever had three 1 million buy shows in the same year was boxing, which did it in 1996, during the heyday of Mike Tyson, who fought three times that year, and in 2011.
The company had only had a few 1 million buy shows in its history prior to this year, with two in 2015, the Rousey vs. Holm fight and the McGregor vs. Jose Aldo fight.
The other three 1 million buy shows this year were UFC 196, the first McGregor vs. Nate Diaz fight; UFC 200, headlined by Miesha Tate vs Nunes but with real top drawing fights on that show were Daniel Cormier vs Anderson Silva and Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt; and UFC 202, the second McGregor vs. Diaz fight, which was the most purchased UFC pay-per-view show to date.
Nunes vs. Rousey had support from a Dominick Cruz vs. Cody Garbrandt men’s bantamweight title fight, which saw a number of heated situations in the week leading to the fight. The number may have been slightly bigger, although probably not much, had the Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum fight not fallen through due to the Velasquez injury, as the Velasquez fan base is a largely different demo from the Rousey fan base.
The numbers indicate that if Rousey had promoted the fight, and it was held on a better night (the previous, Friday, Dec. 30 UFC show with Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem did only 540,000 buys at a time when Lesnar's shows were all doing more than 800,000 buys), that the UFC 202 record could have been in jeopardy. It also indicates that had Rousey won and Holly Holm had won the featherweight title on Feb. 11, that a match between the two would have almost surely broken the record.
However, with Rousey's loss, that fight is unlikely to happen and her career is in question. The reality is Holm lost twice, although not in nearly as devastating fashion, and was put in a championship fight next, and Holm had nowhere near Rousey's drawing power. Even with the losses, a Rousey vs. Holm fight, particularly if Holm was featherweight champion, would do huge business. In most other ways, such a fight would appear to be a bad idea even if Rousey wanted to continue her career.