Early estimates for the UFC 159 Jones vs. Sonnen buyrate are in and whether it is a success or not depends on your criteria. The good news is that the pay per view was the second biggest of the year. The bad news is that it should have done more.
Those numbers put the event in line behind UFC 158 Diaz vs. GSP as the second highest buyrate of the year thus far for the UFC. The number blows the show past Ronda Rousey’s debut and will probably hold up as one of the top 3-5 events of 2013 looking at the tentative schedule.
The pay per view is a bit of a rebound for Jones who is coming off 410,000 buys for his previous fight against Vitor Belfort. Meltzer reports that Jones averages just below 500,000 buys so this would certainly be a win for Jones in the eyes of many.
It isn’t all good news if you ask me. The number is a bit of a disappointment if you take a look at the big picture. By all accounts this fight should have done 750,000 buys. Consider all of the resources that went into this fight and the personalities involved and I think 500-520 k is a disappointment.
The UFC spent an entire season of The Ultimate Fighter to build up this fight. The season averaged 1.2 million people from week to week to listen to Jones and Sonnen build up their show. Those are a lot of eyes watching this build up week to week and a lot of those people didn’t think it was worthwhile to buy. The sacrifice here was keeping Jones on the shelf until April when he probably could have fought sooner. In the long run that could have cost them one more fight in 2013 with one of their biggest stars.
Then there is the star power here that I don’t think necessarily delivered. Jones is arguably the best fighter in the UFC, top three at minimum. A guy like Jon Jones should be a superstar but superstars deliver better buys than Jones. The fact that Jones is not drawing on par with Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre has to be cause for concern, especially since he is the face of the future once those guys retire.
Chael Sonnen did his best but even his promos and gimmicked quotes couldn’t pull in the casual fans that generally get caught up in Chael’s hype. Chael is coming off a monster buyrate against Anderson Silva and while the circumstances are different, he is still one of the top draws in the company. The top drawing heel against the superstar champion should have done better. It’s just that simple.
Why did it only do 520 k which again isn’t bad, but not great? This was supposed to be an easy sell, so much that a lot of sacrifices were made. The timing was just awful. Nobody bought Chael as a serious challenger. For whatever reason the casual masses still aren’t connecting to Jon Jones. A guy like him should be bringing in more casual fans and he’s not.
If I were the UFC I’d probably be disappointed today. If these two couldn’t do more than 500k with a successful season of TUF and the personalities involved, they have big problems moving ahead. The number was nice and it certainly wasn’t a failure, but it should have been much bigger.