UFC 234 may have had a lot of people talking about it and watching the prelims on Feb. 9, but the late loss of the main event didn’t help pay-per-view numbers.
Early estimates have the show, headlined by Israel Adesayna’s three-round decision win over Anderson Silva, doing 175,000 buys. The card, held at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, was thin when it came to star power to begin with, and then took a hit when middleweight champion Robert Whittaker suffered a hernia and collapsed bowel right before fight time. This led to the last-day cancellation of the Whittaker title defense against Kelvin Gastelum.
Silva vs. Adesanya may have meant more than the title match to the show, given Silva’s status as an all-time great and fighting for the first time in two years. Silva’s name value is such that he’s been a significant draw since he broke through to the public with his wins over Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen. Adesanya came in as an unbeaten fighter with legit star potential, and there were implications that this would be the “passing-of-the-torch” night, which it turned out to be. But it was really a two-fight show to the general public to begin with. and the one promoted as the main event was gone. UFC has had many deeper shows with championship fights do lower numbers than that.
The show had a lot of momentum since the prelims, boosted by a great Duke vs. Virginia lead-in, did the best number for any pay-per-view in more than two years, but in this case that wasn’t a good predictor of how the pay-per-view would do.