UFC 254 drastically underperforms PPV expectations

Last Saturday at UFC 254, Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) defeated Justin Gaethje (22-3) to retain his lightweight championship. The fight was one of the more anticipated matchups of the year, and was being built as arguably the biggest fight of the year.

The week prior to the fight, Dana White talked about how the fight was trending. He pointed to the star power of the lightweight champion, Nurmagomedov. The expectation was that this card would do massively well for the promotion on PPV.

In fact, White mentioned that the fight was trending higher than Nurmagomedov – McGregor. The grudge match between those two that came back at UFC 229 was the highest PPV buy rate the UFC has ever seen hitting 2.4 million buys.

However, the numbers have come in, and they are significantly lower than UFC 229. In fact, they are significantly lower than even the highest PPV buy rate from 2020. Per the Sports Business-Journal, UFC 254 only hit 675,000 PPV buys worldwide.

Was UFC 254 a disappointment?

At 675,000 buys, UFC 254 ranks as the fifth most watched UFC PPV this year. This card was behind UFC 251, UFC 249, UFC 253, and UFC 246. Those cards all had star power like Conor McGregor, Jorge Masvidal, and Israel Adesanya.

The only card that didn’t have massive star power was 249, but that was the first event that the promotion held after the shutdown. That number was expected to be massively high. Nevertheless, last Saturday night was a disappointing result for the promotion.

Now there were a couple of things that could have hurt the PPV. For one, the card started at 2 PM ET which is eight hours earlier than normal. They did this to put Nurmagomedov in primetime for the fans in the middle east.

However, Nurmagomedov’s last fight in Abu Dhabi was estimated to have done about one million buys. I have to say, I’m pretty shocked myself. Given the magnitude of the fight, I was expecting it to be close to one million when it came to PPV buys.

I knew it wasn’t going to touch McGregor – Nurmagomedov. That was a pipedream for the promotion. However, the result might tell you that Nurmagomedov is not as big of a star as the promotion would have you believe. Either way, definitely a disappointment for the promotion on Saturday.