SBD/Issue 169/Leagues & Governing Bodies

UFC Breaking Through To Mainstream Audiences

UFC Gaining More Ground On TV
In Coveted Males 18-34 Demo
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has “penetrated the defense of the mainstream and applied a choke hold to that golden 18-to-34 male demographic,” according to L. Jon Wertheim in a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cover story. “The Ultimate Fighter” on Spike TV, which matches aspiring UFC combatants, “often eclipses the television ratings of the NBA and [MLB] playoffs in that target audience.” The show has “demystified the sport of MMA,” while serving as “a sort of UFC farm system.” The show also “doubles as a de facto infomercial for the [PPV] cards.” UFC events “do bigger [PPV] numbers than any pro wrestling event or boxing card this side of Mayweather-De La Hoya.” UFC’s ’06 PPV revenues were almost $223M, compared with $177M for boxing on HBO and $200M for WWE. UFC 69, on April 7, was the “highest grossing event in the history of the Toyota Center” (SI, 5/28 issue). L.A. Times columnist J.A. Adande said UFC’s popularity is “not just about the numbers, it’s about the demographics. Young males are watching this. That’s the Holy Grail in TV advertising” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 5/23).

UFC 71: A capacity crowd of 13,318 has been announced for Saturday night’s UFC 71 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, with anticipated gate receipts of $4.4M. The event features the Chuck Liddell-Quinton Jackson light heavyweight championship bout (N.Y. TIMES, 5/25). Liddell this week appeared on ESPN’s “Jim Rome Is Burning” and FSN’s “BDSSP,” and he was featured recently on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. In addition, today’s Liddell-Jackson weigh-in will be televised on ESPNews (THE DAILY). White said, “This is the last nail in the coffin for the media that haven’t given the sport credibility. All the talk of not being a sport is over now. We’ve finally arrived” (BOSTON HERALD, 5/25). He added being on the cover of Sports Illustrated “was a dream for us. We used to talk about getting a story in [SI] some day, but we never even thought about getting the cover” (, 5/24). FSN Exec VP/Programming & Production George Greenberg said, “The sport has become far more watchable, more dramatic and more socially acceptable. Boxing organizations should no longer be looking in a rearview mirror but, in my opinion, should be looking at the car in front of them” (USA TODAY, 5/25).

FIGHTERS: SI’s Wertheim notes UFC’s “top fighters” have contracts that pay them six figures per fight and “can earn seven figures when bonuses and a percentage of the [PPV] haul are factored in.” But “lower-profile fighters” on the same card may earn $2,000-3,000 for a bout (SI, 5/28 issue).

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