The UFC is fast becoming one of the most significant sports leagues globally, successfully bringing mixed martial arts to the mainstream.
This article will provide you with detailed UFC viewership statistics from verified data sources that will show you how much it has grown in audience numbers, pay-per-view buys, and much more.
If you’re in a hurry, here’s the bottom line about UFC viewership statistics in recent years:
The Ultimate Fighting Championship generated an average of 447,000 pay-per-view buys in 2018, a 31.47% increase from 340,000 buys in 2017. The UFC’s most significant year for pay-per-view was 2016, with an average of 655,000 buys. The second biggest was in 2009, with an average of 617,000 PPV buys.
If you want to learn more interesting stats about the UFC viewership statistics in recent years, keep reading.
Pay-Per-View Buys are often considered one of the most crucial viewership statistics for the success of mixed martial arts events, particularly the UFC, as most audiences watch the event by live streaming.
Let’s take a deep dive into the statistics.
Biggest UFC Events By Pay-Per-View Buys
The UFC can bring in millions of PPV buys on some of its top events through great global live streaming efforts.
Here are the top 10 biggest UFC events in Pay-Per-View buys:
|1st||Khabib vs. McGregor (UFC 229)||2,400,000|
|2nd||Diaz vs. McGregor 2 (UFC 202)||1,600,000|
|3rd||Poirier vs. McGregor 2 (UFC 257)||1,600,000|
|4th||Poirier vs. McGregor 3 (UFC 264)||1,504,737|
|5th||McGregor vs. Cerrone (UFC 246)||1,353,429|
|6th||McGregor vs. Diaz (UFC 196)||1,317,000|
|7th||Usman vs. Masvidal (UFC 251)||1,300,000|
|9th||Alvarez vs. McGregor (UFC 205)||1,300,000|
|10th||Aldo vs. McGregor (UFC 194)||1,200,000|
As you probably guessed, McGregor’s name appears plenty, with eight times being one of the lead name fighters for a UFC event and holding the top six spots quite easily.
Total Pay-Per-View Buys Per Year
Buys for pay-per-view shows by the UFC have grown considerably since its origins in the 90s. Entering into the noughties meant significant strides for the brand to produce even more excitement and viewership as time passed.
Now let’s check out some of the total PPV buys per year for the UFC:
|Year||Total Number Of Pay-Per-View Buys|
It’s clear that from 2005, the UFC really optimized its entire branding and media output to reach over a million in pay-per-view buys. They then only increased their reach, bringing in over 4 million buys for 2006, and continued to rise to almost 9 million in 2010.
Since 2010, their buy rates have been on a noticeable decline. But beyond 2014, it’s believed that the UFC has been on an excellent trajectory of growth by carefully increasing its profit margins and is suspected to be worth in the region of $5.725 billion.
Average Pay-Per-View Buys Per Year
The UFC can have some outliers that smash records and bring up the overall PPV buys in a calendar year for the brand. Those outliers usually involve Conor McGregor. Because of his vast brand persona, he can bring in a broader audience of sports enthusiasts.
Let’s look at some of the average pay-per-view buys per year to see which comes out on top. Here are the averages of pay-per-view data between 2001-2018:
|Year||Average Number Of Pay-Per-View Buys|
Some of these years will have considerable outliers that bring up the averages. Such as in 2018, which included Khabib vs. McGregor (UFC 229), and in 2016 which included McGregor vs. Diaz (UFC 196).
UFC Event Live Attendance
While the UFC generates most of its revenue from Pay-Per-View buys on UFC fight nights and events, they are still producing a sports performance in a stadium almost every weekend. Let’s look at some of the highest attendances of their live events.
The highest attendance for a single UFC event was Whittaker vs. Adesanya for UFC 243. The live attendance reached 57,127 and was held at the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.
This fight was likely so high in attendance because of the dedicated fanbases of Australians (for Whittaker) and New Zealanders (for Adesanya). Many “kiwi” flew over from New Zealand to attend the event. With the general popularity of fighting sports in Australia already high, it made this an epic event in live attendance and globally.
Two other UFC events were very close to matching this record, like Rousey vs. Holm for UFC 193, which reached 56,214 people in live attendance. And St. Pierre vs. Shields for UFC 129 got 55,724 attendance.
Here’s a list of the top 10 UFC events in order of live attendance:
|1st||Whittaker vs. Adesanya (UFC 243)||57,127|
|2nd||Rousey vs. Holm (UFC 193)||56,214|
|3rd||St. Pierre vs. Shields (UFC 129)||55,724|
|4th||Werdum vs. Miocic (UFC 198)||45,207|
|5th||Gustafsson vs. Johnson (UFC On FOX 14)||30,000|
|6th||St. Pierre vs. Koscheck 2 (UFC 124)||23,152|
|7th||Hunt vs. Oleinik (UFC Fight Night 136)||22,603|
|8th||Redemption (UFC 97)||21,451|
|9th||Serra vs. St. Pierre 2 (UFC 83)||21,390|
|10th||Velasquez vs. Werdum (UFC 188)||21,036|
Compare these events to Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor for UFC 229. That event holds the record for the most significant Pay-Per-View buys (2.4 million buys). But it actually only reached 20,034 (its max capacity) in live attendance at the T-Mobile Arena in Nevada.
Geography Of UFC Fans
The UFC boasts a diverse fanbase across the globe, with bursts in particular regions of the world that are otherwise dominated by other sports like soccer, basketball, ice hockey, and others.
Let’s take a look at some of the top geographies of UFC viewers worldwide.
Countries Most Interested In MMA
Out of the whole world, five countries top the list of those most interested in mixed martial arts. In 2016, Nielson reported these countries in their World Sports Review:
Surprisingly, it’s not just the USA that loves mixed martial arts. With three of these countries in Asia, there is a broad interest in mixed martial arts in that part of the world.
I think this is mainly due to the growing local competitions in these areas (like One Championship), which breeds a large viewer base among the size of the population. Other Asian countries have been growing quickly, too, such as Indonesia.
The Brazilians have had a keen interest in mixed martial arts since the birth of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as many grapplers often dabble in other striking sports to add to their experiences like Boxing or Muay Thai.
UFC’s Biggest Growth Markets
Between 2014 and 2016, Nielson reported that the UFC had three primary growth markets around the world, which were:
- Russia grew by 6.3%
- Spain grew by 5%
- Poland grew by 4.5%
A large part of this growth in Russia was likely driven by the success of Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was a rising and undefeated fighter at that time. Later in 2018, he would beat Conor McGregor for the biggest Pay-Per-View of all time.
But Khabib wasn’t the only Russian fighter making a name and bringing in more Russian fans during that time.
The roster of Russian fighters was also building with the likes of Alexey Oleinik, Alexander Volkov (who joined the UFC in late 2016), and Islam Makhachev. They helped to bring those eyes to the UFC.
For Polish fans, there were the likes of Jan Blachowicz and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who were at the top of their fight game. Joanna is still considered one of the best female fighters of all time.
MMA’s Biggest Growth Markets
If you widen the interest broader to mixed martial arts, Nielson also reported that certain countries grew significantly between 2014 and 2016:
- Spain grew by 6.5%
- France grew by 5.2%
- Turkey grew by 4.9%
- Malaysia grew by 4.7%
- Canada grew by 3.6%
- USA grew by 3.6%
The overall interest in mixed martial arts has begun spreading from North America to Europe.
Being the top driver of growth, Spain could soon become a destination that inspires more people to get into MMA sport and watch competitions like the UFC.
Quick Answers About UFC Viewership Statistics
There are many common questions about the UFC buys, viewer stats, and popularity in the sports world. Below you’ll find answers to many of them discovered in my research.
Is UFC Viewership Declining?
The UFC saw a pay-per-view buys decrease of over 64% between 2010 to 2014. In 2010, they reached 8,980,000 buys, whereas in 2014 only generated 3,200,000 buys.
Is The UFC Gaining Popularity?
Overall, the UFC has been gaining popularity in many global markets. The appeal is spreading to many different cultures and parts of the world. Between 2014 and 2016, the interest in the UFC grew by 6.3% in Russia, 5% in Spain, and 4.5% in Poland.
What UFC Fight Sold The Most?
The most sold UFC fight on record (in Pay-Per-View terms) was Khabib Nurmagomedov against Conor McGregor at UFC 229 on October 6th, 2018. The event generated 2,400,000 (2.4 million) in Pay-Per-View buys, with this single fight attracting likely all of that viewership.
The only event that beats this record is when the UFC released McGregor for a one-time Boxing exhibition match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, which generated 4,300,000 (4.3 million) Pay-Per-View buys.
What Demographic Are UFC Fans?
The primary demographic of UFC fans is from the USA, with over 75% male, 60% white, 60% between the ages of 25 and 44, and 60% making under $50,000 per year.
The UFC also has big fanbases in other countries like Russia, Canada, Brazil, the UK, Australia, Mexico, and China. The biggest growth markets for the UFC up to 2016 were Russia, Spain, and Poland.
While the UFC is a male-dominated sport, the gender diversity increases for females, with an estimated 10-25% female fanbase. This appears to only be growing each year as more women train in mixed martial arts or watch the sport. The UFC also represents female fighters well, with female fighters putting on great performances for the viewers.
The majority of UFC fans are white in ethnicity. Still, there is a considerably higher representation of African-American and Hispanic viewers when compared to white people. Consider that 15% of white people say they are casual watchers, compared with 25% of African-Americans and 22% of Hispanic viewers.
In the dominant age group between 25 and 44, the 60% is split into about half each for 25 to 34-year-olds and 35 to 44-year-olds. There’s approximately another 10% viewership for under-25s and 10% for over-54s.
Around 30% of UFC fans earn between $50,000 to $100,000 per year. Which puts the majority of earnings for UFC fans under $100K. While they might not be among the highest earners in society, sports fans are huge in numbers. They often spend their disposable income on entertainment like sports.
Is The UFC Bigger Than Boxing?
The UFC isn’t yet bigger than boxing in viewership or pay-per-view buys. For example, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao generated 4,600,000 pay-per-view buys. The UFC’s biggest event, Khabib vs. McGregor, generated 2,400,000 pay-per-view buys. Boxing simply has a long history that has passed between several generations.
Is UFC Bigger Than The NFL?
The UFC is not bigger than the NFL in terms of revenue or fanbase, although it is growing rapidly in both metrics. The NFL brings in billions of revenue every year. In contrast, the UFC only brings in several hundred million of revenue.
How Many MMA Fans Are There In The World?
There are an estimated 550 million MMA fans globally, which is roughly 7% of the global population.
Sources & Further Reading
That concludes this piece about UFC viewership statistics, which includes data sourced from various sports and mixed martial arts sites.
Below you’ll find the list of sources used to write this article. You might find it helpful for further reading to learn more about the UFC’s viewership stats in recent years.
- Report: UFC 232 pulls in an impressive 700,000 buys (MMA Mania)
- 2016 World Sports Review (Nielson)
- Pay Per View Buys (Tapology)
- MMA Total Attendance (Tapology)
- UFC 229 draws 20,034 fans, falls just shy of live gate record (MMA Junkie)
- The UFC Fan Base (MMA Payout)
- MMA Fans Demographics (MMA Facts)
- NFL vs UFC: Revenue, Salaries, Viewership, Attendance and Ratings (WSN)
- Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – Statistics & Facts (Statista)