Just a few short years ago, the UFC was financially struggling and trying to avoid having to fold up their business, while the WWE was at the top of their game, raking in millions for their Pay-Per-View events both in television sales and ticket sales. Fast forward to today and the WWE is still raking in millions, but the UFC has had an incredible turnaround in mainstream success surpassing the WWE in demand for their Pay-Per-View events both on television (UFC routinely has more Pay-Per-View buys) and in the stands.
I decided to do a comparison of the next three Pay-Per-View events for both the WWE and the UFC to see just how big the difference is in demand for tickets for both organizations. I looked at sales on the TicketNetwork Exchange for WWE's Night of Champions (Sept. 18), Hell in a Cell (Oct. 2) and Vengeance (Oct. 23), and compared them to UFC 135 (Sept. 24), UFC 136 (Oct. 8) and UFC 137 (Oct. 29). The results were even more lopsided than I thought they would be.
The three UFC events had nearly seven times more tickets sold than their WWE counterparts. In addition, the average ticket price paid by customers so far has been 75% higher for the three UFC events. UFC 135 alone has sold nearly five times as many tickets as the three WWE events combined.*
This begs the question: How did the ticket demand for UFC events quickly become so much bigger than for the WWE? I asked a few people who know a little bit more about the UFC, and mixed martial arts as a sport, for their opinions on the question.
Ryan from FightLinker.com: "WWE is doing something like 4-6 shows a week which must fatigue the market even for when tickets are for larger PPV events. And even then, your headliners for WWE shows are the same roster mixed up with maybe a bit more hype coming in for whatever storyline is currently playing out. With the UFC - and especially the next three events because they're stacked cards - you're getting once in a lifetime fights. You aren't liable to see Rampage vs. Jones again or Diaz vs. GSP, unless it happens again in 3-4 years and it's even a bigger deal."
Larry from ProMMARadio.com: "The unpredictability of the sport is another factor that yields a feeling that once a fight start[s] anything can happen at any moment. A fighter could literally be getting dominated for 14 minutes and get submitted or KO’d a second later. There is a 'Don’t Blink' quality and purity to the sport that makes it very different from boxing and wrestling."
Zach from FightOpinion.com: "WWE and UFC attract completely separate audiences in some respects and in other respects the crossover between the two audiences generally is amongst older WWE fans who have some money to spend. If you had a Venn diagram, WWE's outlier would be kids, UFC's outlier would be men 24-35 with cash to burn, and then in between crossover would be older WWE fans and women.
Simply put, WWE has done a terrible job of promoting live house events and PPVs on their TV. Their TV audience is largely the same as it has been for the last five years but they have failed to convert the watching audience into paying customers. UFC with lower TV ratings has been able to convert more of their audience into paying customers."
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section!
* Numbers based on sales on the TicketNetwork Exchange as of 9/1/2011 at 3:40 p.m. EST.