270,000. 225,000. 375,000.
Those are the buyrates of the last three Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views (PPV) that had a lightweight main event.
Compared to other UFC cards, those numbers are dismal.
When B.J. Penn held the title, the shows he headlined did number comparable to other UFC events but when he left the 155-pound division, he took with him the money fans were willing to put down to watch the smaller fighters.
In his two years plus as champion, Frankie Edgar has competed in nothing but instant classics and will surely do so again tonight at UFC 150 when he challenges Ben Henderson for the title "Smooth" took away from him at UFC 144; however, one can't help but wonder how many fans at home will actually pay to watch it live.
Is the lightweight division a PPV bust?
At UFC 125, Edgar and his nemesis Gray Maynard battled for 25 minutes in what would be a "Fight of the Year" contender on the very first evening of 2012.
Less than 300,000 people tuned in.
The month prior and the month later, UFC fans eagerly spent at least 50 bucks for shows headlined by George St. Pierre and Anderson Silva. Each show did around 800,000 buys. The French Canadian's offering was mechanical, while "The Spider" provided a highlight reel knockout.
But, neither bout provided the excitement and drama of UFC 125's main event.
When the bout was scored a draw, the two 155-pounders met for a third and final time inside the Octagon at UFC 136. If fans missed out in January, surely they wouldn't make the same mistake twice. Edgar/Maynard III was just as good as their previous match-up, only this time it ended with the champion getting the decisive technical knockout (TKO) victory.
Even less people than before saw it.
Barely more than 200,000 people tuned into UFC 136, while four months later, UFC 144 sold less than 400,000 PPVs.
Do people not care about Frankie Edgar? Or does fans' excitement with the sport begin at 170 pounds?
Based on the numbers, it seems like lightweights are doomed to be bridesmaids and never brides. Ever since Penn won the vacant title at UFC 80, each 155-pound title bout has been exciting, but fan support has been lackluster. The fights are better suited to support a more anticipated fight, adding meat to the card.
Perhaps the division needs someone to fill in the giant shows "The Prodigy" left behind when he moved up to welterweight permanently. Penn was gifted inside the Octagon and not afraid to speak his mind out of it. He was the perfect champion to draw eyeballs, while Edgar -- love of an underdog aside -- seems to survive every fight by the skin of his teeth.
Fans don't want that. They want fighters like St. Pierre and Silva who demolish their opponent. They want to be able to say they saw this champion doing what he does best. With Edgar, they see an undersized fighter frantically moving around the Octagon and outpointing his opponent.
Edgar simply doesn't have the "it" factor. Does Henderson?