Tickets To Saturday's 20th Anniversary UFC Event Drawing Huge Demand
Saturday night's UFC 167 PPV in Las Vegas headlined by Georges St-Pierre-Johny Hendricks is being billed as the promotion's 20th anniversary show, and ticket search engine SeatGeek has determined this to be the "most in-demand UFC event since at least 2009," according to Elias Cepeda of YAHOO SPORTS. The event has the site's "highest average ticket price they've ever recorded," while this week there has been a "significant increase in the lowest prices available." The average ticket price for UFC 167 is $850, and prices "on the secondary market are almost double what they were for UFC 166 in Houston last month" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/14).
THE LONG & WINDING ROAD: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Stuart Miller noted although UFC is celebrating its 20th year of producing fights, it "didn't begin MMA's transformation into the burgeoning sport -- and the dynamic business -- it is today" until January '01. That is when brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta bought UFC and along with Dana White "formed Zuffa LLC to oversee the business." MMA was "once considered a fringe sport," but is now "tentpole programming on Fox and an anchor for Fox Sports 1, as well as a driver of viewers to TV networks everywhere from China to Brazil." Fox Sports Media Group President Eric Shanks said, "The UFC has spent a lot of time carrying the water for our new network. They are the reason people tune in. There’s nobody we’d rather be in business with." Both White and Lorenzo Fertitta said that small, regional MMA organizations "remain an important stepping stone for fighters -- the minor leagues in essence." But Fertitta said that he "expects UFC to be the sole national player from here on out" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 11/11 issue). ESPN.com's Josh Gross wrote, "If anything is improbable about the fact that UFC matured to the point that it airs live cage fights on national television and served as a lynchpin for the launch of a major cable sports network, it's that all the maneuvering, assuaging, adapting and evolving actually paid off" (ESPN.com, 11/11).
BECOMING PART OF THE MAINSTREAM: White believes that UFC "is beginning to receive the recognition of a major sport, but still doesn't consider it mainstream." He said, "We’re starting to get there now. I don’t think we’re mainstream yet. I really don’t. I know people disagree with me when I say that. But I think we’re starting to be looked at as one of the major sports now" (MMAWEEKLY.com, 11/11). But UFC HOFer Royce Gracie, who took part in UFC 1, said of the promotion, "It became mainstream. I know because little kids now, when I travel -- I’m on the road about eight months of the year -- and when little kids come up to you, you’re talking about 8, 10 year olds, saying, ‘I want to be in the UFC. Can you hook me up?’ You know the UFC made it" (MMAJUNKIE.com, 11/13). Fighter Chael Sonnen said, "There's a legitimate argument which sport is the biggest sport. I'm a fighter and I don't want to bring down other sports, but here is the reality: If you take the two best soccer teams in the world and you stuck them in a venue in my hometown (West Linn, Ore.), nobody's coming. Nobody is going to buy a ticket. But if we take the biggest UFC fight there was ... we could stick that in any venue in the world on any continent in the world and it would sell out" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/11).
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE: White talked about the future of the promotion going into its next 20 years and said, "The UFC will just be as big and as normal and ingrained in society as any sport. We haven't even scratched the surface. When you sit down and you try and wrap your brain around how big the potential for this thing is, it's insane" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/14). USA TODAY's John Morgan notes White and UFC have "accomplished more than most thought possible." However, White indicated that it is "just the beginning and he doesn't intend to walk away anytime soon" (USA TODAY, 11/15).