Last Saturday, on the main card of UFC 203, CM Punk fell short in his long-awaited UFC debut, tapping out to Mickey Gall rear-naked choke just 2:14 into the first round. From a competitive vantage point his MMA foray was a pretty significant failure.
From a fiscal perspective, however, Punk’s UFC debut is looking like it could have been a massive success – and not just because he made bank with a disclosed purse of $500,000. It’s also looking like Punk’s presence on UFC 203’s main card may have driven pay-per-view sales far beyond most estimates.
In advance of the bout, Dave Meltzer, who is an expert on such things, spoke with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour and offered his prediction for the UFC 203 pay-per-view buy rate.
“This is what I’ll say: Anything over 270 [thousand PPV buys] is because of Punk,” Meltzer told Helwani on the MMA Hour. “Because I was looking at this and I was thinking this is probably, you know, 250-300ish, right? Probably below 300 when you take Punk out. So if it does 400, then Punk was a hell of a draw. … If somehow it does 500, then I completely underestimated the pro wrestling audience.”
This estimate from Meltzer was based on the pay-per-view numbers achieved by UFC 198, which was headlined by a heavyweight title fight between Stipe Miocic and Fabricio Werdum – both of whom fought at UFC 203 – and was, overall, a more stacked card. This Miocic-Werdum headlined event raked in roughly 350,000 buys.
As it turns out, however, UFC 203 looks to have far exceeded Meltzer’s expectations which, given the PPV buys achieved by UFC 198, can be attributed almost exclusively to Punk’s presence on the card.
According to Marc Raimondi of MMA Fighting (via Forbes), UFC 203 is on course to surpass the PPV buys attained by UFC 183, which did about 650,000 buys with its Anderson Silva vs Nick Diaz main event. It might even blast past UFC 182, which did something in the area of 800,000 buys with a highly hyped championship grudge match between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier in the main event.
As Matt Connolly of Forbes points out, these numbers would establish Punk – a man who began his UFC career with no martial arts experience – as one of the company’s top moneymakers, surpassed only by cash cows like Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, and Brock Lesnar.
So, while UFC President Dana White recently suggested that Punk’s time with the company could be over, he may well change his tune in the coming days, once he takes a good look at the cheddar the former WWE star brought in.
Do you think Punk’s drawing power will earn him a second shot with the UFC? Sound off, PENN nation!