UFC 219, built around what looked to be the biggest marquee women’s fight UFC could put together, Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm, is estimated at doing 340,000 to 380,000 buys based on preliminary numbers.
The number is significant because even though Ronda Rousey had proven a women’s fight could be a blockbuster as a pay-per-view main event, the jury was very much out regarding if anyone but Rousey could pull it off. It’s been proven that women’s main events not involving Rousey can lead to strong television numbers, most notably the Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko and Michelle Waterson vs. Paige VanZant ratings in 2016, and Gina Carano was a monster television draw in another era on CBS.
But pay-per-view is a different animal.
Holm did in the 200,000 buy range for a featherweight title fight with Germaine de Randamie last February. Amanda Nunes vs. Shevchenko for the bantamweight title in September is believed to have done even worse. And while some may point to the 1 million plus number for UFC 200, headlined by Nunes’ title win over Miesha Tate in 2016, the reality is that number was drawn far more by Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt and Daniel Cormier vs. Anderson Silva.
Holm garnered a great deal of popularity and notoriety with her win over Rousey. Based on Nunes’ last fight, which looked going in to be a credible championships fight, it doesn’t appear Nunes did the same with an even quicker and just as devastating win. Cyborg headlined the first big-scale women’s major show main event, back in 2009 against Carano on Showtime. At the time was the highest rated MMA fight ever on premium cable. But even though Cyborg won the fight via first-round stoppage, she was unable to garner interest even close to that level in the years that followed.
The proposed Cyborg vs. Nunes battle of champions, a fight Dana White has talked about wanting to do next, but that Cyborg has been negative on, would be the best chance to see how important Holm was to the number, or if it was about having Cyborg in a championship fight against an opponent who figured to be competitive.