Ticket sales have been great. Listen, right now, I don't care how big you are or you small you are, everybody's feeling this economic crunch. Major corporations that have been around before we were alive are hurting right now and in fear of going out of business. Our business is in a really good place right now. We did great on ticket sales, I'm predicting right now, even with this economic crunch, the biggest pay-per-view in UFC history.
Such was the opening salvo of the president of one of the fastest growing sports entities in the world, Dana White, the head of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
At first glance, saying "ticket sales have been great" in promoter speak usually means as much as "we're hoping for a big walk-up crowd." In other words, not what was expected of a fight like the return of UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture defending his belt against former WWE superstar Brock Lesnar.
But if you dig a little deeper into White's follow-up comments, you realize that Couture vs. Lesnar could still be the mega-fight that the UFC hopes for, sold out or not.
"The reality is, you don't go home and watch the UFC by yourself. You get eight or nine buddies over, you get the pizza, you get the beer, you all pitch in. It's a pretty cheap night out," relayed White, before adding, "We're projecting 1.2 million (pay-per-view buys). I hope I'm wrong and it's more.
"We've got mad scientists sitting in a room calculating these things. There's a formula to it and a secret and we finally figured it out. Maybe we'll go a little over, maybe we're a little under, but I guarantee you, we'll be right in that range."
The UFC is definitely a pay-per-view driven brand and if the final tally is anything near White's predication, coming up a few tickets short of a sellout will make little difference to the bottom line.
In fact, 1.2 million buys at $44.95 each equates to roughly $54 million, which easily dwarfs live gate revenues, which frequently fall into the $3 to 5 million range.
And Couture vs. Lesnar is only the first in a succession of "mega-fights" that the UFC president has on tap.
"Chuck (Liddell) is the biggest pay-per-view star in MMA. (Couture vs. Lesnar) could outdo the Chuck Liddell numbers. GSP is becoming a huge star in his own. I think the guy that walks out of that B.J. Penn-GSP fight with their hand raised becomes a (expletive) superstar," said White, referring to the Super Bowl weekend welterweight championship between current champ Georges St. Pierre and lightweight champ B.J. Penn.
So, despite the U.S. economy tanking and many MMA companies (most notably ProElite/EliteXC) suffering right along with the country's struggles, the UFC, if White's estimates are correct, is far from bottoming out. In fact, if White's estimates are correct, the promotion may be in for it's largest payday to date.