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The future of sports entertainment: UFC 249 draws over 700,000 PPV buys

Sports fans tuned into UFC 249 en masse this past weekend, with a reported more than 700,000 people paying for the pay-per-view product alone.


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Saturday night DELIVERED! 🍿 Slow down the evening with #UFC249 Fight Motion. (➡️ Watch now on YouTube)

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Dana White, President of the UFC, would not substantiate the numbers but expressed extreme satisfaction with how the event went.

He told Yahoo Sports, “We absolutely destroyed it. It was a home run by every measure. The early trends were good and they continued.”

Such a feat is impressive especially when considering there were no major headliners on the card for UFC 249. One could argue Tony Ferguson, but he got his a** whooped handily, and he’s no Khabib or Conor McGregor.

Justin Gaethje is the fighter who beat Ferguson in the interim lightweight championship.


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Justin Gaethje tossed aside the interim lightweight title belt he won at #UFC249. “I’ll wait for the real one.” @espnmma

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UFC 249 was the first live sporting event in the U.S. since the coronavirus outbreak shut down the country’s economy in mid-March. Dana White was adamant about holding a card even amidst the countrywide shutdown, clearly seeing the economic opportunity in it, but also surely understanding sports fans were starving for some content.

UFC 249 had no fans in the building, and all people present had to be tested for coronavirus before being allowed in. Still, slightly jarring and all, a deadly and transmissible virus that most of us have not seen during our lifetimes changes the rules, and we must evolve with the times.

No fans present may be eerie at first; the echoing of the competitor’s words, the natural sounds blasting into mics that would otherwise be waterlogged with fans cheers and oohs and ahs.

But it is ultimately the same sport being played, the same outcome of joyous and uproarious fans cheering and screaming, just at home instead of there in the building.

Hopefully, the UFC’s restarting is a beacon of hope for other sports. Germany’s Bundesliga is resuming this Saturday, and as the top league in the country, has some exceptional talents and teams gearing up to resume.

Soccer, a team sport with 22 players on the field at almost all times, is much harder to organize around the coronavirus than a one-on-one matchup like the UFC, but Germany must feel confident in its approach.

Who are we to question Chancellor Angela Merkel?

The extreme prosperity the UFC saw this past weekend does not just serve as a model for resuming sports in the world of COVID-19. It could serve as a model for future sports endeavors regardless of global conflict.

The pay-per-view system is extremely lucrative, and its success is largely predicated upon the popularity of its stars.

That is why numbers have been so high when Conor McGregor is winning, when Ronda Rousey was kicking ass, now even when Khabib is set to fight.

But this past weekend’s revelation may be about more than the coronavirus. The UFC is willing to shine its lights and host an epic night of competition and content even when no one else will.

Fans like that, they respect that, and even without a bonafide superstar on the card, it would not be at all surprising if the UFC continues to see its numbers rise.


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Conor McGregor thanks those involved in making #UFC249 happen and wishes them luck ☘️ (via @thenotoriousmma)

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Safety comes before all else, and there are certain guidelines that leagues across the U.S. and the world must adhere to. For some sports, it is exponentially more difficult than others, especially when taking into consideration travel plans.

But everyone right now is pivoting, at work, at home, in how all business and other affairs are handled. The UFC did it; what say you, other sports leagues?

Can we get all 30 NBA teams to be safely quarantined and tested in Vegas or Orlando, and all play in one or two arenas? It doesn’t seem altogether improbable. The UFC is perhaps the fastest-growing sports league in the world, and the main reasons for this are innovation, dedication to crafting an exciting product, and smart marketing.

Its most recent success is possibly its greatest accomplishment yet; a massively successful and exciting night of action with no discernible starfighters to average fans. Sports fans are starving for content.

Will sports leagues follow the UFC’s trailblazing path or slowly watch months and years of promise and prosperity wither away? The sports landscape is in a fascinating area right now. And oh the times they are a-changing. UFC Fight Night continues tonight on ESPN+.


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BACK ALREADY! 👏 ➡️ #UFCJAX coverage begins at 6pmET with first fight at 7pmET on ESPN+

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