Preliminary pay-per-view estimates from a number of sources indicate approximately 40,000 buys through traditional television pay-per-view. That figure doesn’t include whatever streaming pay-per-view numbers there might have been, which, for a show like this, would not be expected to be significant.
The number is much lower than the 200,000 that Ortiz was talking about earlier in the week and the 200,000 to 400,000 number thrown around by promoter Oscar De La Hoya in the week leading up to the fight. Those in the pay-per-view industry before the show said sales were “ice cold.”
What makes that number stunning, and other reports from both Yahoo and the Los Angeles Times pegged it at 25,000 to 30,000 buys, is that clearly there was interest in the fight. But fans were also not willing to pay to see it, even after the price was reduced to $40 over the last week after poor advanced sales. It showed that type of lowering of price isn’t going to make a big difference in getting people to buy.
The show had 500,000 Google searches, an interest level equivalent to UFC shows that would do 170,000 to 240,000 buys.
Nobody but the UFC has been able to make pay-per-view of MMA work to date. Bellator tried and hovered around 100,000 buys before sticking to a television-only strategy, until signing the recent DAZN deal.
Fights like Ortiz vs. Liddell that Bellator has promoted on television, have done huge television ratings. This one would have been expected to do so as well. But for whatever reason, there was interest in the show, but people were not willing to pay for it.
This may still show that television promotion is a must to make pay-per-view work. Golden Boy did media, but did not have a television platform to directly promote this fight, nor countdown shows and studio shows building it like UFC has.
There was also a lack of depth on the undercard, but pay-per-views are drawn off the strength of the main event, not based on the undercard.
In the end, as big a star as Liddell was, the public wasn’t that interested in seeing him fight again after eight years off and being just shy of his 49th birthday.