23
Sep
2019

The Top 10 Pay-Per-View combat sports events of all time

WBN 24/07/2017

Naoki Fukuda

Ahead of what is projected to be the most lucrative fight of all time, WBN looks at the Top 10 Pay-Per-View’s in combat sports.

As the Ultimate Fighting Championship continues to gather pace, Dana White’s organization now holds three positions of those ten said events.

Boxing’s grip on the pay-per-view market is certainly not as strong as it once was, as in 2016 alone, three of UFC’s higher-profile PPV offerings cracked generated over a million household sales, something boxing has only managed to do twice since 2013.

Take away Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao, which blew all records out of the water, the sport has only hit more than 1.5 million buys on two other occasions in the last ten years, something UFC did with a trio of their major efforts last year.

Conor McGregor versus Nate Diaz I and II scored 1.5 and 1.65 million buys when airing in March and August respectively, whilst McGregor versus Alvarez in November hit 1.3m. These have only been topped in the squared circle by Mayweather versus Canelo Alvarez (2.2m) in 2013 and Mayweather v Oscar De La Hoya (2.4m) in 2007 (MayPac apart).

You’d then have to go back to the days of the formidable Mike Tyson to gather further success for the biggest names in prizefighting as UFC hits the right notes with former boxing fans disgruntled with some of the match-ups being made – or in some cases not.

Four years without a pay-per-view hitting a million buys (without the ‘MayPac’ one-off) is a worrying sign for top bosses at the likes of Top Rank, K2 and Golden Boy as a new wave of stars struggle to gain momentum.

Gennady Golovkin could only sell 150,000 and 170,000 when facing David Lemieux and Danny Jacobs respectively in a middleweight unification, whilst Terence Crawford v Viktor Postol – another unification – bombed at 55,000. Sergey Kovalev v Andre Ward, a fight billed as ‘Pound for Pound’ limped between GGG’s tally with only 165,000 when projected to gain at least 250,000.

The one shining light in 2017 was the May 6 Canelo v Chavez Jr. all-Mexico affair which hit 1.2 million buys for HBO.

Mayweather moving on has certainly hit boxing hard, and whilst Canelo still has the reputation to reach the magical million mark, Pacquiao is no longer a paid audience draw.

Canelo taking on Golovkin is the major fight of the year, with Oscar De La Hoya and Tom Loeffler crossing their fingers for the magical 2 million buys, which could prove a massive bridge too far judging by the numbers ‘GGG’ has posted thus far.

There’s no doubting Golovkin has the interest to be a PPV force with the right opponent, and is the only major option for Canelo barring a move up to 168 or even to 175.

Mayweather v McGregor, which sees the two biggest earners of their respective codes pitted against each other, is expected to be the first event to go over the magical 5 million barrier.

Here’s a look at the current top ten combat pay-per-views of all time:

May 2, 2015
Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao – HBO/Showtime (4,600,000)

May 5, 2007
Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. – HBO (2,400,000)

Sep 14, 2013
Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Álvarez – Showtime (2,200,000)

Jun 28, 1997
Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II – Showtime (1,990,000)

Jun 8, 2002
Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson – HBO/Showtime (1,970,000)

Aug 20, 2016
UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2 (1,650,000)

Jul 11, 2009
UFC 100: Lesnar vs. Mir 2 (1,600,000)

Mar 5, 2016
UFC 196: McGregor vs. Diaz (1,500,000)

Nov 9, 1996
Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield – Showtime (1,590,000)

Aug 19, 1995
Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley – Showtime (1,550,000)

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