UFC Viewership Statistics: PPV Buys & Attendance

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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 showing 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

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

UFC Biggest Events By Pay Per View Buys Graph
UFC Biggest Events By Pay Per View Buys by MMA Hive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may use this graphic on your own materials with a link back to MMA Hive.

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:

Rank Event 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
8th UFC 100 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

UFC Total Pay Per View Buys Per Year Graph
UFC Total Pay Per View Buys Per Year by MMA Hive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may use this graphic on your own materials with a link back to MMA Hive.

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
2001 145,590
2002 284,210
2003 264,890
2004 388,322
2005 1,098,950
2006 4,984,200
2007 4,935,000
2008 6,325,000
2009 8,020,000
2010 8,980,000
2011 6,485,000
2012 5,670,000
2013 5,810,000
2014 3,200,000

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

UFC Average Pay Per View Buys Per Year
UFC Average Pay Per View Buys Per Year by MMA Hive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may use this graphic on your own materials with a link back to MMA Hive.

The UFC can have some outliers that smash records with some of the highest PPV buys in UFC history over a calendar year for the brand, particularly in 2009 and 2016. 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
2001 70,000
2002 55,000
2003 56,000
2004 83,000
2005 158,000
2006 527,000
2007 449,000
2008 527,000
2009 617,000
2010 587,000
2011 405,000
2012 449,000
2013 467,000
2014 266,000
2015 567,000
2016 655,000
2017 340,000
2018 447,000

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

UFC's 10 Biggest Events By Live Attendance
UFC’s 10 Biggest Events By Live Attendance by MMA Hive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may use this graphic on your own materials with a link back to MMA Hive.

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:

Rank Event 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

Countries Most Interested In MMA
Countries Most Interested In MMA by MMA Hive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may use this graphic on your own materials with a link back to MMA Hive.

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:

  1. Thailand
  2. Malaysia
  3. Turkey
  4. Singapore
  5. Brazil

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

UFC's Biggest Growth Markets
UFC’s Biggest Growth Markets by MMA Hive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may use this graphic on your own materials with a link back to MMA Hive.

Between 2014 and 2016, Nielson reported that the UFC had three primary growth markets around the world, which were:

  1. Russia grew by 6.3%
  2. Spain grew by 5%
  3. 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

MMA's Biggest Growth Markets
MMA’s Biggest Growth Markets by MMA Hive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may use this graphic on your own materials with a link back to MMA Hive.

If you widen the interest broader to mixed martial arts, Nielson also reported that certain countries grew significantly between 2014 and 2016:

  1. Spain grew by 6.5%
  2. France grew by 5.2%
  3. Turkey grew by 4.9%
  4. Malaysia grew by 4.7%
  5. Canada grew by 3.6%
  6. USA grew by 3.6%

The interest in mixed martial arts has spread from North America to Europe.

As the top driver of growth, Spain could soon become a destination that inspires more people to participate in 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 buy decrease of over 64% between 2010 and 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 likely attracting all 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 are 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 only grows yearly 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 in separate weight classes.

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.

Further Reading On UFC Statistics

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.

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