All the late news surrounding the UFC’s move of the Dec. 29 pay-per-view show from Las Vegas to Los Angeles may have inconvenienced every fighter on the show, every fan who had originally bought tickets to the show and everyone involved in putting the show on, but it doesn’t look to have been as much of a financial disaster to the UFC as was feared.
Early estimates are that UFC 232 will do an estimated 700,000 buys between television and streaming pay-per-view. The number would be the UFC’s second-biggest of 2018, trailing only the nearly 2.4 million for the Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor fight on Oct. 6. The only other pay-per-view event of 2018 to beat that number would have been the Sept. 15 Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight, which did an estimated 1.1 million buys.
The number was well above most expectations for the show, with the belief being that all the news coverage of the Jon Jones controversial drug test results which led to the venue move less than one week before the show created far more awareness of the event, which combined with a strong top two fights and Christmas weekend with families getting together historically being good for UFC pay-per-view numbers.
The former UFC champion’s return after 17 months off due to a drug suspension saw him face Alexander Gustafsson, who had come closer to beating him cleanly than any opponent in the now two-time light heavyweight champion’s career. Jones’ lone loss, a controversial disqualification early in his career to Matt Hamill, was in a fight he was completely dominant in.
The number firmly establishes Jones as one of UFC’s three biggest draws. McGregor is obviously the biggest, and depending on how Nurmagomedov does when he’s not facing McGregor, he could be in the No. 2 position.
While not getting nearly as much publicity, perhaps the most historically significant fight on the show was Amanda Nunes’ first-round knockout win over Cris Cyborg, matching up the bantamweight and featherweight champion. The fight could be strongly argued as, when it came to tip tier fighters, being the biggest women’s fight in UFC history. Nunes already had two wins over Valentina Shevchenko and first-round stoppages of Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. Cyborg came into the fight undefeated over the previous 13 years, and had not even had a heavily competitive fight since coming to the U.S.
While Nunes had not proven to be a draw on her own, even after her win over Rousey, she was part of huge pay-per-views in the past against Tate and in her main event against Rousey. Cyborg had proven to be one of UFC’s biggest draws, male or female, in recent years.
The first Jones vs. Gustafsson fight, in 2013, was estimated at doing just over 300,000 buys.
UFC 232 would be near the top of Jones fights in his career, trailing his two matches with Daniel Cormier, which had a heavy grudge match build, and in the same range as his 2012 fight with Rashad Evans, which also had a heavy personal issue build.