UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, the biggest draw in the sport of mixed martial arts, will have his drawing power put to the test Saturday against Cain Velasquez at UFC 121.
Earlier this week, our own Anthony Pace documented why the UFC would likely want Brock Lesnar to retain his heavyweight championship against Cain Velasquez this Saturday at "UFC 121: Lesnar vs. Velasquez." Simply put: It just makes cents (and many, many dollars).
Here are the facts behind Lesnar's drawing power:
A former WWE Champion and WrestleMania headliner, Lesnar has a built-in fanbase that no other fighter in MMA can touch. He brings in throngs of fans who only buy UFC shows when he's on them, and this is amplified by the fact that he is the sport's top dog right now as the heavyweight champion of the most popular and successful MMA promotion in the world.
Now, this could be circumstance, but the numbers show that business goes up big for Lesnar fights. Here are the numbers via the MMAPayout.com Blue Book:
As you can see, each heavily promoted Lesnar fight has meant a big upturn in business from the prior event. For the record, those prior events featured, in order: BJ Penn (UFC 80), Forrest Griffin (UFC 86), Anderson Silva (UFC 90), Rich Franklin (UFC 99), Chuck Liddell (UFC 115), so it's not like these were nothing events that came prior to Lesnar fights. The smallest change, of 13.6 percent, came in Lesnar's least-promoted fight to date, a clash with Heath Herring in Minneapolis on a show that also featured Georges St. Pierre. Also, it should be noted that the 600K for UFC 81 was the highest UFC buyrate for a non-Chuck Liddell show in 19 months, dating back to UFC 61. Since Lesnar came to the company, UFC buyrates have escalated to where they are today.
It remains to be seen how Lesnar would draw if he wasn't the champion. Certainly the UFC's bottom line would be better off if Lesnar remained champion.
Coming off last month's dud of a pay-per-view in UFC 119 and with solid "Primetime" and Countdown episodes in the books, I expect this show to draw in the range of 1.05 to 1.2 million buys on pay-per-view. It will be interesting to see how Valasquez influences things here. He doesn't have the highlight reel and imposing look of Carwin, the talking skills of Mir or the résumé of Couture. This show will be the truest test of Lesnar's drawing power.