The pay-per-view industry is predicting record numbers for next month’s Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight. Las Vegas betting sites are putting the over/under at 5 million buys and those involved with the show are touting significantly higher numbers.
But the other end of the pay-per-view industry is soft, with the three most recent major events being projected to do less than 150,000 buys.
This continues a trend that has gone on for a few years, where the big fights get bigger, but everything else gets smaller.
UFC 213 on July 8, the show that lost its main event of Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko at the last minute, is currently projected to do in the range of 125,000 to 150,000 buys. With the headliner of Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight title, that could wind up as the lowest UFC number for a pay-per-view event, with the exception of some shows headlined by Demetrious Johnson, over the last decade. That correlates with the prelims rating on FS 1 being the lowest in nearly three years.
That was a show where everything went wrong, as the hoped for main event between Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre, which would have been expected to do major numbers, fell apart before it could be signed, apparently due to St-Pierre suffering an eye injury. Then Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw fell through due to Garbrandt's back injury, and Donald Cerrone vs. Robbie Lawler fell through due to Cerrone having an infection.
Nunes vs. Shevchenko would have been a hard sell as the main event to begin with. While the axiom that women's main events couldn't draw on pay-per-view was blown to bits by Ronda Rousey, the reality is that except for Rousey fights, no woman has successfully headlined a pay-per-view. Some will point to UFC 200, which topped 1 million buys where Nunes vs. Miesha Tate was listed as the main event. The reality is the top two fights on that show as far as drawing power was concerned were Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt and Daniel Cormier vs. Anderson Silva along with the UFC 200 name.
But that show still figures to come out ahead of Bellator's June 24 show in Madison Square Garden, which based on early estimates looks to be in the 90,000 to 130,000 buy range. The number was along the same lines as the first Bellator pay-per-view show in 2014, headlined by Rampage Jackson vs. King Mo Lawal. That main event came off as a major grudge match, even though it didn't really deliver the fireworks the hype would lead you to believe.
The June 24 show had the most hype and was easily the strongest name-value show in Bellator history. Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva was a grudge match from years ago, and based on Bellator's history of using ex-UFC headliners who are past their primes, it probably would have been a very successful television main event. The other top bout, Fedor Emelianenko vs. Matt Mitrione, was anything but a grudge match. With two other title fights on the show, Scott Coker had talked of hoping to get to 200,000 buys.
David Schwarz of Spike TV talked of the Madison Square Garden event as a major success.
Schwarz said that Viacom company policy would not allow a release of the official numbers. Bellator did release the 2014 show number as just over 100,000 buys.
"I can say we are all very pleased with everything from the Bellator PPV - that, of course, includes the record gate, record domestic attendance, strong numbers for Bellator 180 (the two hour prelims on Spike) and great exposure for the brand, and great momentum as we plan our next PPV. Details coming."
In addition, the week in between, a boxing pay-per-view headlined by Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev is estimated at doing about 130,000 buys. That would be down from the 160,000 buys from their previous fight in November.
For Mayweather vs. McGregor on Aug. 26, the promotion, in selling sponsorship packages to the show, is predicting numbers that are completely off the charts - 7 million buys in the U.S. and another 1.4 million in the U.K. In the same package, it lists the Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight, the previous record-holder, as doing 4.4 million buys in the U.S. and 700,000 in the U.K.