MMATorch Daily Top Five 5/23: Worst Performing UFC Pay-Per-View Events of the Last Five Years

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Demetrious Johnson

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5/23/16: Five Worst Performing UFC Pay-Per-View Events of the Last Five Years

With two fairly unappealing title fights in Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley and Demetrious Johnson vs. Wilson Reis headlining July’s UFC 201 event – just weeks after UFC 200 – that Atlanta event is likely to perform poorly on pay-per-view. With that in mind, today we look at the five worst performing pay-per-view events the UFC’s had in the last five years, with thoughts on why they drew what they drew (pay-per-view buys are all estimates based on reported numbers via’s Blue Book).

5. UFC 161 “Henderson vs. Evans” (140,000 buys): Into 2012 the UFC had been on a hell of a run on pay-per-view, with almost anything that they put out to viewers drawing a floor of well over 200,000 buys, so when (dis)honorable mention UFC 147 dipped down to 140K buys with Wanderlei Silva and Rich Franklin headlining it seemed like an outlier. Fast forward one year later and they did an identical number in June of 2013 with a card headlined by Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans. Now, this was an injury replacement headliner, as a Bantamweight Title bout was supposed to headline before Renan Barao pulled out a month before the event. Of course, as we’ll see down this list, that may not have made much of a difference. Regardless, fans were less enthused about paying to watch Henderson and Evans in 2013, so most didn’t.

4. UFC 186 “Johnson vs. Horiguchi” (125,000 buys): Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson has, for whatever reason, been unable to get fans to turn their money over to watch him fight. He’s on this list three times with headlining fights, and this event from last April was his second best drawing event as a headliner on pay-per-view (his best was 205,000 buys with Chris Cariaso as his challenger at UFC 178). Perhaps it’s the lack of credible opposition, or the fact that he’d taken a while with many of his opponents in fights that were, quite frankly, not very competitive. This wound up being a one-sided drubbing, though he did pull off a nice highlight to finish it off with a last second submission.

3. UFC 177 “Dillashaw vs. Soto” (125,000 buys): This one was entirely out of T.J. Dillashaw and the UFC’s hands. Renan Barao’s weight cutting disaster sent him to the hospital the day of weigh-ins, and they pulled together a last second replacement fight with Joe Soto to keep the card alive. Now, that they didn’t have much else to offer on the card below that is part of the theme with these cards as well, because weak headliners with weak support don’t really put them in a good starting point. Regardless, with the Dillashaw-Barao rematch off the table, this card lost the interest of many, and it’s unfortunate for Dillashaw’s draw as this wasn’t an accurate barometer for what he could have potentially brought in, and they put him on network TV and cable for his next two title defenses after this.

2. UFC 174 “Johnson vs. Bagautinov” (115,000 buys): The low point for UFC pay-per-view buys, and Demetrious Johnson hit it twice. This first one in 2014 was a bit surprising in that the undercard had some decent fights with known names, notably in the co-main event between Rory MacDonald and Tyron Woodley. However, this was the first time the UFC was asking fans to pay to see a Johnson-headlined event, as the Flyweight Champ had previously headlined three separate Fox events to defend the title he won in 2012. What was surprising about his lack of success in drawing on this card was that he had come off two stoppage wins, including a violent KO over Joseph Benavidez in their rematch in his fight prior to this. Still, the other factor hurting him here was the timing, as the June pay-per-view is so often squeezed right in between two major card on Memorial Day weekend and then Fourth of July weekend from the UFC. That year the two surrounding this didn’t do all that well, but this one suffering as a result isn’t entirely surprising.

1. UFC 191 “Johnson vs. Dodson II” (115,000 buys): The UFC’s Labor Day weekend events are often strong, so this card matching Johnson and the UFC’s low point came as a little bit of a surprise last year – especially with a rematch against Dodson who had given him his biggest challenge and one of his best fights previously – and is likely the reason we’ve now seen Johnson booked twice as the co-main event in 2016. For any number of reasons, fans have simply not been keen on buying events that the flyweights are headlining, and even though the Andrei Arlovski-Frank Mir co-main event was passable as a co-main event it was an uninspiring supporting card for that main event. Can this run ever change for Johnson? Perhaps, but matchups with the likes of Wilson Reis and whomever wins TUF 24 in the fall aren’t going to help.

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