UFC 227 on Aug. 4 in Los Angeles, a show headlined by T.J. Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt for the bantamweight title and Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo for the flyweight title, is currently estimated at doing 300,000 buys.
The number was well above most expectations for the show, which also drew the largest live crowd the company has ever drawn at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, beating out such major fights as Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie and Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano.
The number would be in the same range as the April 7 show with Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta, for third place this year behind the January and July shows built around the heavyweight title.
The stronger than expected number also confirmed the earlier stronger than expected number of Google searches that night, with more than one million, making UFC 227 the single-most searched item on the Internet the day of the show.
It would have been the second-biggest number ever drawn by a bantamweight title fight, with the record at just over 300,000 being the July 2, 2011, show headlined by Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber, who at the time were both far more established stars.
So the question becomes, in a time when most UFC numbers are down, what is the reason for this?
It’s impossible to isolate.
Garbrandt vs. Dillashaw did have a grudge match element in the buildup, and that usually makes a big difference, and it was a rematch of an exciting first fight.
UFC officials have long seen star power in Garbrandt, which is one of the reasons he was given the title rematch immediately coming off the knockout loss.
Another aspect revolves around the man UFC revolves around, Conor McGregor. McGregor’s fight with Nurmagomedov was announced the day before the fight, and another big fight with Nate Diaz vs Dustin Poirier was also announced that week. The announcements led to more mainstream media talk about the UFC and may have led to people thinking about UFC and wanting to get together to watch a double title match show.
The Nurmagomedov vs. Iaquinta fight also came with tons of mainstream attention to UFC that week, with Conor McGregor throwing a dolly through the bus that Nurmagomedov was inside of.
However, UFC officials were expecting big numbers for that show, originally to be Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson on top, and then Nurmagomedov vs. Max Holloway, before it fell apart at the last minute. While Iaquinta was not considered the level of being a pay-per-view headliner, and then missed weight, it was a show that had major interest leading up to it.
While there were two title bouts on top, UFC 227 lacked marquee power depth, with the biggest name from a star power standpoint underneath being Cub Swanson, which was a far weaker star power undercard than most pay-per-view events.
If Garbrandt was the key, the question becomes how badly hurt was he as a draw with his second straight knockout loss to Dillashaw?
It also means that as long as Dillashaw remains champion, it’s going too be very difficult for Garbrandt to get another title shot. Without being in a title match, it’s going to be difficult for him to pull numbers on pay-per-view.
It’s the same issue that plagued Faber, who would have been the biggest drawing card in bantamweight history, but always fell short in the championship fights.
The actual weights going into the cage taken and released by the California State Athletic Commission did lead to one very interesting revelation. Garbrandt went into the cage at 142 pounds, as compared to 149.5 pounds for Dillashaw. But the key to that is what Johnson, the flyweight champion, also weighed 142, and Cejudo, the top contender, weighed 141. So Garbrandt physically was the same size as modern flyweights, not modern bantamweights.
That would indicate than rather than give up substantial size, he is best served fighting as a flyweight, especially now that his bantamweight title opportunities look gone.