There was a whole lot of grumbling from UFC fans on Saturday night when the time came to drop $65 on UFC 234. Not only did the main event title fight between Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum fall out last minute over emergency hernia surgery, but the undercard past Israel Adesanya vs. Anderson Silva was objectively terrible.
Yet according to UFC president Dana White at the post-fight press conference, the event still did great financially.
”Were you at the fight tonight? Did you see an open seat?” White said with a smile. “Place was packed, you’d have never known the main event was gone. The pay-per-view wasn’t bad. Pay-per-view wasn’t bad at all. So it was a good night. I didn’t sleep at all, but other than that it was a good night.”
The bottom on pay-per-view numbers for non-marquee events has declined in worrisome fashion over the past couple of years, with several events doing sub-250k numbers. If UFC 234 sold over 250,000 buys — the reported number UFC 230 did headlined by Daniel Cormier vs. Derrick Lewis — then you gotta tip your hat to Anderson Silva and his perfect foil Israel Adesanya for that. If you’re the UFC, you could do something more tangible: you could pay them.
As per usual, a cut of the pay-per-view was set to go to Robert Whittaker and possibly Kelvin Gastelum for their main event title fight. Few fighters outside of champions and some contenders get a piece of the PPV pie, but after becoming the last second headliner, Israel Adesanya wondered aloud at the post-fight press conference whether he’d get the cut that was supposed to go Whittaker’s way.
“The pay-per-view points, where do they go? What happens to them?” Adesanya asked (transcript via Bloody Elbow). “I’m just wondering. Maybe I’ll have to sit down with Dana and make him talk because that’s a lot of money being left on the table and it stays in the hands of the dealer when I’ve done my bit. I showed up to work. Unfortunately, it was out of Rob’s hand. It wasn’t in his control. The controller was in Player One’s hands.”
”I showed up to work today. I clocked in. I came early to watch them do battle and I stayed late so I can do all this stuff, as well.”
In the new tightfisted Endeavor era, we have our doubts Adesanya will get much above what he signed for on his bout agreement. But he certainly deserves more than a small pay bump if he managed to carry that thin card up to decent PPV numbers. With needle-movers in short supply, you’d hope the UFC will recognize the man’s worth.
“I’m working my ass off,” Adesanya continued. “I feel like, man, I don’t know what the buyrates are because it wasn’t really my main event. It wasn’t really my show. They put me in the regular hotel. I didn’t get the main event suite either. But the pay-per-view points I’m looking like, what happens to them? Maybe me and Anderson can split those because we got ‘Fight of the Night’ and that’s a lot of money being left on the table. We’ll see what happens with that.”