While doing my early-morning ritual of navigating the internet to get the latest juicy bit of ufc/MMA news, I came across a very interesting article on MMA Manifesto. The article lists the Ten Greatest UFC Pay-Per-View Draws of All-Time, according to estimates. It’s a fascinating piece, and it makes me wonder: what do these high-drawing athletes say about our sport? Here’s the first of a two-part article where I reveal what I think these fighters represent, and why they’ve made the UFC so many millions.
1. Georges St. Pierre (6,985,000 PPV Buys): Georges St. Pierre is simply the perfect mix of everything. He’s incredibly humble. He’s a very good-looking man. He’s an amazing fighter. He’s got an entire country (his native Canada) on his side. In a list mostly filled with brash talkers or knockout artists, GSP stands out as the squeaky-clean do-gooder. Above all else, GSP getting the #1 spot proves that MMA fans aren’t just a bunch of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals that only want to see fighters rip each other’s heads off.
2. Chuck Liddell (6,324,000 PPV Buys): I think that “The Iceman” making the #2 spot proves two things: that rivalries sell fights, and that image is everything. For the longest time, Liddell had the look of a man who had just gotten out of prison with the attitude and serious punching power to back up his mystique. His incredibly bitter rivalry with Tito Ortiz also gave the UFC a huge amount of PPV buys, and stands the test of time as one of the best MMA rivalries in the history of our sport. Chuck Liddell is the embodiment of the old-school MMA mentality: sometimes all you need is the ability to heinously separate an opponent from his consciousness in order to be a huge MMA star.
3. Brock Lesnar (6,045,000 PPV Buys): While Liddell embodies the old-school mentality of the gruff and tough brawler that the fans can’t get enough of, Lesnar is probably the definition of the phrase “controversy creates cash”. You can love him, you can hate him, but you still pay to see him fight. At this point, just the mere mention of Lesnar’s name is enough to stir up a heated debate in just about any online community. Lesnar’s high rank on this list says that MMA fans can be incredibly divided on a fighter while still paying again and again to see that fighter fight. It’s one of the biggest keys to success for both an MMA fighter and an MMA promotion: whether you pay to see him lose or pay to see him win, at the end of the day, everyone pays.
4. Forrest Griffin (5,630,000 PPV Buys): I have to admit, this one shocked me considerably. Seriously: Forrest Griffin has helped sell over five million Pay-Per-View buys? What this says to me is that “The Ultimate Fighter” deserves all the credit it constantly gets for being the bridge the UFC walked over to get to the land of mainstream acceptance. Griffin also proves that you don’t have to be the best fighter to be a big draw, sometimes all it takes is a self-deprecating sense of humor and the uncanny ability to absorb crazy amounts of damage. Forrest Griffin is a fighter that comes to fight, and he doesn’t mind if he gets beaten to a bloody pulp in the process, and that’s why I think MMA fans have embraced him so thoroughly.
And rounding out both the top five and Part 1 of this two-parter is…
5. Matt Hughes (5,399,000 PPV Buys): Matt Hughes is living proof that a country boy can survive. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. I think Matt Hughes’ spot on this list proves that MMA fans are a loyal bunch, they’ll support a once-dominant champion through thick and thin so long as he keeps turning in quality fights. Hughes has only lost a step or two from when he was tearing through the UFC’s welterweight division, and he remains one of the UFC’s biggest stars. His spot on this list proves that if a high-level fighter has staying power, his drawing power will stay equally as high.
That’s it for today, fans and friends. Tune in tomorrow when I cover the rest of the Top Ten UFC PPV Draws of All-Time and give my thoughts on what I think they say about our industry as a whole. And what about you? Did any of these entrants take you by surprise, and what do you think their spot on this list says about the MMA world as a whole?