UFC superstar Ronda Rousey’s return to the octagon in tonight’s UFC 207 pay-per-view event will cap off what has easily been one of the mixed martial arts franchise’s most lucrative PPV campaigns ever.
While the company has not officially released PPV buy numbers for its 2016 events, industry observers say the performance of the MMA organization’s landmark UFC 200 event in July, its November UFC 205 event featuring Colin McGregor – which also served as the first UFC event held in New York’s Madison Square Garden – as well as the predicted strong PPV revenue and buy returns from tonight’s event will certainly push the UFC past boxing as the king of the PPV ring in 2016.
The PPV boxing category delivered a weak revenue jab to distributors this year compared to the knockout punch the category landed in 2015, bolstered by the record-setting Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight. Not even the presence of two Pacquiao PPV fights in 2016 could lift the fortunes of a category in transition after losing its most lucrative draw in Mayweather to retirement.
Fighters headlining PPV boxing cards in 2016 like Canelo Alvarez, Andre Ward, Sergey Kovalev and Terrance Crawford are still building awareness and appeal with boxing fans and could create some buzzworthy PPV bouts in 2017, but it will take some time before the category can generate PPV revenue and buys in the neighborhood of Pacquiao-Mayweather.
HBO could offer as many as three PPV boxing events in the first half of 2017 including a scheduled Feb. 25 Miguel Cotto-James Kirkland bout and a March 18 Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs championship fight card that will receive some fanfare, but will be hard pressed to reach the category’s gold standard of 1 million PPV buys. A potential Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr fight in May could also generate some decent noise and buys for the category among hard core fight fans, but could be a tough sell to casual sports fans.
Meanwhile, the UFC will look to build on its big 2016 PPV performance with the promise of a slew of PPV events next year featuring the organization’s top fighters, beginning in February with its UFC 208 event in New York. Whether Rousey will join the UFC’s roster of 2017 PPV headliners remains to be seen, but tonight’s card closes a successful 2016 PPV campaign for the organization and serves as a strong lead-in to what is expected to be another knockout PPV year for the UFC in 2017.