A few years ago, the UFC had Georges St-Pierre, Brock Lesnar, and Anderson Silva as active members of its roster. Put any one of those three men on a card, and that card would sell like hotcakes.
Today, things are much different.
Brock is back with the WWE. GSP is semi-retired, and is also in the middle of rehabbing another knee injury. And Anderson Silva? He’s getting through his rehab as well, after Chris Weidman knocked him out cold, took his belt, and then assisted him with snapping his leg clean in two.
So… who, exactly, is left to be the “big draw” of the UFC? Well, according to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, it would be him.
“I would imagine that I would have to be one of the biggest draws right now in the sport, especially with Anderson (Silva) and Georges not being around,” Jones told MMAjunkie. “But I don’t think about that too much. My biggest thing is winning fights. Winning fights and growing more comfortable in my own skin each year. I’m really happy where I’m at right now.”
As far as actual figures to back these statements up, well, being that the UFC is a private company and doesn’t disclose its pay-per-view numbers, it’s hard to tell who’s out-selling whom. But we do know that – to date – the biggest figure reported for a PPV of which Jones headlined was 700,000 buys, when he fought his former training partner, Rashad Evans, at UFC 145.
Not a bad number at all. But that fight had a lot of heat behind it. A story, to sell the fight. And while GSP, Anderson and Brock never really needed a storyline to get PPV buys, we can’t tell just yet if Jones is part of that rarefied air.
Considering the nonexistent drama between Jones and his next opponent, Glover Teixeira, their fight at UFC 172 will be quite telling. Will Jones be the UFC’s next top-draw; proven as a fighter who can sell an event no matter who his opponent is, or what level of drama might be unfolding in the weeks leading up to the event?
We’ll soon find out.
By Jim Chadwick | Twitter