Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje | Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
UFC 254 was expected to be one of the biggest pay-per-view cards of the year, but the final tally for sales reportedly reached just 500,000 buys in the United States.
Those figures come courtesy of the Sports Business-Journal, which reported that the show headlined by what would turn out to be Khabib Nurmagomedov’s final fight against Justin Gaethje sold approximately 500,000 pay-per-views in the U.S. along with another 175,000 buys internationally.
At 675,000 total buys, UFC 254 would actually land in fifth place for pay-per-view broadcasts in 2020. UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal reportedly sold 1.3 million pay-per-views followed by UFC 246 featuring the return of Conor McGregor at 1 million buys. UFC 253 headlined by Israel Adesanya sold approximately 700,000 pay-per-views with UFC 249 tying that total with 700,000 buys for the card featuring Gaethje against Tony Ferguson in the main event.
Of course, UFC 254 dealt with a tough start time in the U.S. with the main card airing at 2 p.m. ET, which is not typical for a pay-per-view. The earlier start time helped additional countries around the world including Nurmagomedov’s native Russia watch his fight at a much more reasonable hour.
As previously reported, the UFC 254 prelims on ESPN2 averaged 343,000 viewers over the two-hour broadcast.
While 675,000 buys is a solid number for the UFC after moving all pay-per-views to ESPN+, the sales figures are far lower than UFC president Dana White had initially predicted.
In the lead up to the fight card from Abu Dhabi, White teased that every sign he was seeing made UFC 254 appear to be one of the biggest events in the history of the promotion.
“This thing is trending off the charts for us right now,” White told TMZ ahead of UFC 254. “So, today is Tuesday, it’s the end of Tuesday going into Wednesday, on Monday, this thing was trending to be the biggest fight we have ever had. Not Thursday, not Friday, Monday.
“It is trending bigger than (UFC 229) right now. Will the trend hold? One of the things that is a big negative for us is that it is not in prime time at home and it is hard to message that to people.”
UFC 229 headlined by Nurmagomedov against McGregor is the biggest selling UFC card of all time with 2.4 million buys.
It appears the earlier start time ultimately prevented potentially bigger numbers for the card, which saw Nurmagomedov submit Gaethje in the main event and then announce his retirement from the sport.