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UFC 235 does strong early pay-per-view numbers

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The early estimates for UFC 235 on pay-per-view were exceedingly strong, and also quite unique.

At this point the show is being estimated at doing between 520,000 and 650,000 buys, well above expectations, particularly when days before the show, there were reports of somewhat cold orders.

Reports were that the show lit up the lines in the last two hours before show time.

Aside from the fact that this does establish light heavyweight champion Jon Jones as a reliable top drawing card, pulling these type of numbers with an opponent, Anthony Smith, who nobody really expected to give him trouble, there are some other conclusions about the pattern.

Some credit should probably go to the large audience watching the prelims on ESPN. The prelims, which came right after a major University of North Carolina vs. Clemson basketball game, drew 1,480,000 viewers, the best number for such a show in two years. The show was both entertaining, but also, particularly due to the short Johnny Walker vs. Misha Cirkunov fight, gave time for numerous video packages building the two championships fights, Jones vs. Smith and Tyron Woodley vs. Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title.

With the lead-in and television ratings, there were likely a number of basketball fans watching the prelims and with the hype, considered buying the show.

The same didn’t happen three weeks earlier, when a similarly strong audience for prelims resulted in approximately 170,000 to 175,000 buys for UFC 234. The difference was the major news during those prelims was that Robert Whittaker needed emergency surgery and the main event was off.

With all the issues surrounding Jones, combined with Whittaker pulling out of the last pay-per-view just hours before the show, it also could be that the fan base took a wait-and-see approach until right before fight time, to make sure the key matches were going to take place.

The number is slightly down from the Dec. 29 show with Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson and Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes, which was estimated at 700,000. But that show was considered far more attractive. Gustafsson gave Jones the toughest fight of his career in what was considered as the consensus the most exciting light heavyweight title fight in history in their 2013 fight. Cyborg, who had proven to be a drawing card, was in what could be argued was the biggest women’s fight of all-time, not when it came to marquee value, but when it came to perhaps the two best women fighters of the generation going at it. In addition, Christmas week has been traditionally very strong for UFC pay-per-view historically.