After a successful 2016, 2017 was, on the whole, a hugely disappointing year for the UFC in terms of PPV buy rates. UFC 214 and 217 were by some distance the most successful PPV shows of the year, both doing over 800,000 buys, UFC 219 headlined by Cyborg and Holm was the next best, but not achieving half of 214 and 217 on the early estimates.
Jon Jones and GSP can be attributed to the spike in buys for UFC 214 and 217, but everything else, despite the obligatory public spin, must have come as a huge disappointment not to mention a considerable worry for the leading MMA organisation. Jones despite his many indiscretions proved he is still a massive draw, and GSP despite being away for so long, did the same.
The success of 2016, was mainly down to Conor McGregor, his absence throughout 2017 was a massive loss to the UFC, his only appearance, of course, was his attempt to defy logic and history, not to mention common sense, when he fought Floyd Mayweather in a boxing ring.
McGregor in 2016 fought three times, twice in fights with Nate Diaz and the historic UFC 205, when he beat Eddie Alvarez to claim his 2nd UFC title. UFC 194 and 196 where McGregor fought Diaz both did over 1.2 million buys, while UFC 205 did similar numbers, other than Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey, nobody comes close to being able to consistently generate those type of numbers.
Going forward into 2018, indications are telling us McGregor won’t return until August, although there are also signs that he is already back in the gym, so the UFC will hope an earlier return will happen, and that it will be in the UFC and not in a boxing ring. McGregor will go where the money is, can the UFC match any offers from elsewhere?
Sadly for the UFC, the McGregor era might not have long left, where are the superstars to generate the big numbers, the UFC needs. Lesnar may return one last time, as for Rousey, you are far more likely to see her competing in a WWE Royal Rumble than the Octagon. Jones, who knows, GSP as with Lesnar, might only have one more fight left, or he may never return.
2017 was a bad year for the UFC, the signs are that 2018 might not be much better, a lot might be resting on UFC 220 and a certain Francis Ngannou.