UFC 254 was reportedly just the promotion’s fifth highest pay-per-view event in 2020, drawing around 675,000 viewers to see Khabib Nurmagomedov’s slight title defense against Justin Gaethje.
According to the Sports Business Journal, which reported that the event attracted less than half of the 1.3 million buyers who chose UFC 251 in which Kamaru Usman successfully defended his welterweight title against Jorge Masvidal.
UFC 254 was also below UFC 246 (1 million PPV purchases), UFC 253 (700,000) and UFC 249 (700,000), respectively.
Conor McGregor returned to the sport at UFC 246, beating Donald Cerrone via TKO in just 40 seconds.
At UFC 253, Israel Adesanya extended his MMA record to 20-0 when he defeated Paulo Costa via a TKO in the second round to defend his middleweight title for the second time, while Gaethje won the preliminary lightweight title at UFC 249 – and earned his shot against Nurmagomedov – against Tony Ferguson.
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The numbers come after UFC President Dana White said Oct. 20 that the fight tends to beat the 2.4 million PPV purchases that sparked Nurmagomedov’s clash with McGregor in 2018.
“This thing is off the charts for us right now,” White had said. “So today is Tuesday, and on Monday this thing was the biggest fight we’ve ever had. Not Thursday, not Friday, Monday. “
However, White questioned whether this trend would continue as the event on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi started at 2 p.m. Eastern Time in the US.
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Sure enough, the lack of a prime time slot seems to have had a significant impact on the crowd as the event had to rival college football.
According to the Nielsen rating system, the tentative show, which began two hours earlier, averaged just 343,000 viewers on ESPN2, making it the UFC’s lowest-rated show of the year.
Nurmagomedov extended his main event record to 29-0 when he defended his easy title for the third time in his second round against Gaethje before announcing his retirement from the sport.